Six congregations launch "Massachusetts Indaba 2019"

Indaba Launch group Tracy J. Sukraw The Rev. Noble Scheepers, the rector of Trinity Church in Marshfield and a member of the Massachusetts Indaba working group, teaches the Indaba teams a new song at their Jan. 12 launch event.

Six congregations are answering the diocesan mission strategy's call for "embracing brave change" by stepping forward to launch the "Massachusetts Indaba 2019" initiative this month.

Teams of four people from each of the congregations gathered at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston on Saturday, Jan. 12 to sing and pray together, get some orientation and begin planning their Indaba experience.

St. Paul's Church in Bedford, St. David's Church in South Yarmouth and St. Andrew's Church in Wellesley will form one Indaba partnership.  Emmanuel Church in Boston, St. James's Church in Cambridge and Trinity Church in Marshfield comprise the second.

They were joined at the launch meeting, via video link, by the Rev. Canon Dr. Phil Groves from the Diocese of Oxford, England, who is the former director of the Anglican Communion's "Continuing Indaba" project, and the Rev. Dr. Paula Nesbitt of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., who teaches sociology of religion and has conducted and published research on Indaba.

Teams sing at Indaba 2019 launch Tracy J. Sukraw Indaba team members from St. David's Church in South Yarmouth join the singing.

Over the course of three weekends in March, June and October, each of the participating congregations will take a turn hosting their partner parishes' teams.  They will use these weekend encounters as opportunities to offer and receive hospitality, share meals and fellowship and learn more about each other's communities and the particular opportunities and challenges of congregational life in each place.

The teams will gather for a closing celebration in October to share their experiences and hopes for the future.

Indaba is a model for purposeful conversation, arising out of the South African context, that has been used throughout the Anglican Communion.

In 2017, the Diocesan Convention adopted a mission strategy implementation plan that included "developing opportunities for teams from congregations to visit other congregations, sharing worship and learning about one another."  A Diocesan Council working group subsequently studied and recommended Indaba as a format for addressing that diocesan goal.  

Indaba is about relationship building and skill building, and it is being introduced to the diocese at a time in society when listening and being heard is more important than ever, Louise Gant said in an interview last fall, as planning for the launch was getting underway.  She is a member of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan and a co-convener of the Indaba working group.  She also served on last year's Mission Strategy Implementation Team.

"What really drew me to Indaba was not only the relationship-building aspect but also the fact that the focus is not on solving a problem or reaching some outcome or changing someone's mind about something on which you might have a different opinion or perspective.  It's really more, to me, about sharing and listening in a way that you might be able to put yourself in another person's space.  It's a process for making sure that everyone gets to be heard.  I think that's what many of us are seeking, to be heard," Gant said.

She said that the method can be scaled up or down to be used in a variety of settings, so that once a congregation has experience with it, Indaba becomes "another tool to use in relationship building."  

It ought to be fun, too, she said.  "Part of the experience will be to get to know one another and share some fun times, share a meal together and allow some free time to use in whatever way helps to deepen relationships," she said.

"My hope is that the congregations that participate in it will have experienced a new way, another way of getting to know one another and that this actually has answered some of the prayer of those who were looking for a way to deepen relationships," Gant said.

--Tracy J. Sukraw