THEME INFORMATION

Theme:

Wells & Walls: Well-Being in a Thirsty World

Guiding Scripture: John 4:1-42

In John 4 we are told of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, her encounter with her people, and Jesus’ words to the disciples. In the person and story of Jesus Christ we see movement across barriers, new understanding, and life-giving transformation as a consistent pattern.

As we look toward the 2017 National Gathering, as we invite local congregations and regional leadership to come together in the nation’s heartland of Kansas City, we recognize there are many walls and wells that manifest in our lives. In March of 2017 —

  • we are in the early months of a new US presidency (and after an embittered, fear- based campaign season),
  • we watch the global unrest created by the largest refugee crisis in history,
  • we continue – 9 months in – with new leadership in our highest PCUSA church offices,
  • congregational life continues to be growing slowly for some and declining for most in the North American church,
  • we continue to negotiate what it means to be a “big tent” denomination that holds space for minority voices,
  • we wrestle with the effects of the individualistic, consumer values of our society,
  • we continue to grapple with the shift in power dynamics that come from life in an anti-institutional, digital, plural age,
  • we celebrate multi-cultural, multi-faith, and diverse experiences of life,
  • we confess our fears that manifest in racism, homophobia, demonization, and polarization.

In thinking about this national gathering, we want to explore how we — as disciples and as the church — participate in Jesus’ pattern of moving across barriers, new understanding, and life-giving transformation. In short, finding and offering well-being.

We affirm that each of us is challenged to cross walls of fear or uncertainty and engage with those who hold very different perspectives and experiences from our own. For some, this is a conscious act of moving into new spaces. For others, this is a daily, unavoidable reality. We affirm that for all of us in the midst of these conversations, the Spirit arrives to us in our humility and need and understanding grows. We affirm that the most important transformation is our own and that life-giving transformation flows from conversation and understanding.

Transformation is one of the greatest challenges for individuals, local congregations, and regional governing bodies. We are fundamentally resistant to change. At the same time, we see and feel a deep thirst for the life-giving transformation promised in Jesus Christ.

We view this national gathering theme being played out as we explore 21st century realities such as:

  • cultural authority and pluralism,
  • the worldview of the “spiritual but not religious,”
  • multi-culturalism & the white cultural captivity of the church,
  • the rapid pace of change and resistance to it.

We will open up these topics theologically and through the stories of congregations who are powerful in their communities, trusting that the Spirit of Christ has the power to transform us individually and collectively into places and sources of well-being.