Building a Community of Belonging in the Church

Last week, Transform Minnesota hosted A Community of Belonging at Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley. A group of pastors and leaders committed to further understanding sexuality and gender beyond personal identity learned more about the way cultural practices of autonomy and individualism alter our understanding of humanity; the need for self-giving, interdependent relationships; and practical ways they can foster communities of belonging in their churches. 

Theology of Belonging 

“Society and community is not secondary…it’s the purpose of God, that we might dwell with God, and with our neighbor.” – Dr. Joel Lawrence

Dr. Joel Lawrence, President of the Center for Pastor Theologians, started the day off with a theological and philosophical exploration of the reasons our culture has become one of non-belonging. The move to non-belonging stems from a cultural vision of humanity which is rooted in the individual. To become a community of belonging, the Church must understand that humanity was created for community. The creation of Adam and Eve together reflect the community seen in the Trinity. The image of God is thus fully realized through interpersonal relationship. 

Flourishing of Women 

Leah Libresco Sargeant continued the conversation by analyzing how a culture focused on autonomy fails to understand the dependence we all have on others and on God. This is modeled in maternity, where a child is as fully dependent on the mother as the mother is on those around her. Societies which approach this dependence with animosity also dishonor men, who will fail to recognize their dependence on God. 

Following the talk, Pastor Jenn Alexander from Hosanna Lutheran Church and Schelli Cronk, COO of Transform Minnesota, joined Libresco Sargeant for a panel discussion on flourishing womanhood in the Church. The three covered numerous ways churches can approach nurturing the God-given gifts of women, even when they don’t fit expected roles. 

Single and Married in Community 

“…this was the most compassionate way I’ve heard the application of this topic discussed.” – Conference Participant

Dr. Greg Coles, Senior Research Fellow for The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender, concluded the day with an overview of the overlapping abilities and barriers single and married people experience in the context of mutual belonging. Dr. Coles stressed that belonging is not a gift that flows in one direction. Instead, the fullness belonging for single and married people is found in a model of family that allows for mutual dependence without needing to tidy oneself up. In this way, single and married can both encourage the other toward the person of Jesus.

A quartet of workshops dove deeper into the themes of the conference, providing further practical and theological models for community cultivation. Participants also had the opportunity to expand their understanding through Q&A sessions and connection with each other. Leaders left the day with new ideas for how to engage students and parents, think about covenant community, and pastorally and compassionately approach these topics with their congregations.  

Transform MN has always hit the nail on the head, especially on the topic of holy sexuality, so I decided to attend again. I find, as a pastor, I need regular equipping and encouragement and clarity on this topic, since it is surrounded by such a cloud of confusion and discouragement in our culture (and within the church). I was not disappointed; Transform MN hit it out of the park once again. – Andrew Gross, Lead Pastor, Hope Christian Church Shoreview 

February 29, 2024
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