What’s Happening at St. John’s

Imagining a “new thing” for the churchyard

June 2021: St. John’s has received a $3,500 grant from The BTS Center, the organization that emerged from Bangor Theological Seminary. We plan to use the grant to transform (temporarily) the churchyard according to several different visions–a place of meaning, a place of beauty, and a place of joy. After three events from August through October, we’ll see how the Holy Spirit might lead the parish to plan a more permanent transformation of the outdoor space.

This process started earlier in the spring, when five of us from St. John’s joined a “community of practice” with The BTS Center. Together with a group of about 60 people around the country on Zoom, Mary-Frances Beesorchard, Nancy Dymond, Ann McAlhany, Ann Holland-Faulkner Sherman and Rev. Rebecca Liberty read and discussed the book From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination by Rob Hopkins.

To get our own imaginations going, we were asked to consider an “often overlooked space,” and we started thinking about St. John’s churchyard. When The BTS Center invited proposals for “micro-grants” to bring an idea to life, we decided to apply.

Our “what if” question is, What if the churchyard and pathway were seen as a “thin place” between parish and neighborhood, that helps us imagine God’s mission for St. John’s? (A “thin place” is traditionally understood as a place where heaven and earth come closer together.)

We are gathering in the churchyard each Sunday after worship this summer. On several of those Sundays, we will be envisioning some new ideas for the churchyard. The grant will help bring those ideas to life, temporarily, on one Sunday each.

  1. August 1: Prayer path or labyrinth, and space for prayer and meditation. What if this was a place where anyone could come and find peace? For passersby, what if this were the most meaningful part of their day?
  2. August 8: Garden that celebrates creation and community. What if this was a place where anyone could encounter God in creation? For passersby, what if this were the most beautiful part of their day?
  3. Fall date TBD: Neighborhood Imagination Celebration, combined with an Open House if possible, celebrating the completion of the tower project. What if this space was a gift to the neighborhood as well as for the church? For passersby, what if this were the most joyful part of their day?

These opportunities will help us move toward discerning, not only what we might do with that space, but also how God might be calling us into the neighborhood. The path through the churchyard offers a great opportunity to be “with” our neighbors more intentionally.

What if God is “doing a new thing” in the community through this parish? We look forward to imagining with you!