Indaba partners reap relationship-building rewards during first encounter weekend

Cambridge Indaba participants Courtesy Photo Members of St. James’s Church in Cambridge hosted teams from Emmanuel Church in Boston and Trinity Church in Marshfield during their first Indaba encounter weekend in March.

Massachusetts Indaba 2019 is underway, and teams from each of the six participating congregations gathered at the end of March for the first of three encounter weekends they will be experiencing together over the course of the year-long initiative.

St. James's Church in Cambridge hosted guests from Emmanuel Church in Boston and Trinity Church in Marshfield, while St. Andrew's Church in Wellesley played host to teams from St. Paul's Church in Bedford and St. David's Church in South Yarmouth.

"At St. Andrew’s we found the weekend very rewarding," the Rev. Adrian Robbins-Cole, Rector of St. Andrew’s Church, said by e-mail.  "We introduced our guests to our parish by having a range of parishioners from St. Andrew’s come to meet with our guests and tell them about what they value about St. Andrew’s.  But we commented that the informal time spent together over meals or cups of tea or at the overnight host families' [homes] was the most valuable time.  This is probably not surprising for the first Indaba weekend in which relationship building between the teams is a natural priority," he said.

New friendships were a highlight for the teams gathered in Cambridge as well, according to the Rev. Matthew Stewart, Priest-in-Charge at St. James's Church.  

"Trinity Marshfield, Emmanuel Boston and St. James’s Cambridge quickly bonded in our first Indaba weekend, telling jokes, laughing, appreciating the differences and similarities between our communities.  We shared some ideas for ministry and mission, but the relationship building seemed the primary outcome.  One visitor shared that it was for her a time of spiritual renewal.  Another shared that while many such church events led her to have new acquaintances, this weekend had given her new friends," Stewart said in an e-mail.

Two more encounter weekends are scheduled--in June and October--so that each of the participating congregations will have a turn at hosting their partner parishes' teams.  The weekend encounters are occasions to practice offering and receiving hospitality, sharing meals and fellowship and learning more about each other's communities and the particular opportunities and challenges of congregational life in each place.

Although the broad diversity of the diocese isn't represented in this inaugural Indaba effort, because of the small number of participating congregations, Robbins-Cole said the team from Wellesley found there is a lot that can be learned from one another, even out of similarity.

"One person from St. Andrew’s commented that it was a shame that our three parishes were quite similar, being predominantly white and relatively prosperous, and wished we could have been teamed up with parishes that were more different," he said.  

"But the response to this comment from one of our guests was that although we might look the same, our parishes are very different in terms of size and tone or emphasis.  This made us even more excited about our visits to the other parishes.  Certainly on the basis of the experience of this weekend, I would enthusiastically recommend to parishes that they participate in the next round of the Indaba initiative.  I intend to sign up St. Andrew’s for participation again."

The Indaba model for purposeful conversation and relationship building comes out of the South African context and has been used throughout the Anglican Communion.  It has been adopted in the Diocese of Massachusetts as one format for addressing the diocesan mission strategy goal that calls for "developing opportunities for teams from congregations to visit other congregations, sharing worship and learning about one another."