Beautiful and Inherently Messy

Have you ever gone to an event where an individual stood at the door, clicking a little hand-held counter as each individual walked in? Imagine the clicking is rhythmic and constant, and the numbers on the counter are in a constant forward march.

For those of us on the Loaves & Fishes Leadership Council, that’s what the last week or two has felt like: every time we returned to our email accounts, a dozen new and wonderful ideas had appeared there. In every conversation at church, in our prayer schools and small groups, in the individual interviews, even on Facebook, new visions for a future of service and strengthened community were emerging. Certainly we felt that way Friday, January 30th, at our mini summit, with nearly 20 incredible ideas were presented with passion by the 130 people who attended.

To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming. One committee member called it “beautiful, and inherently messy.”

So how do you seek clarity and pursue discernment and the call of God in a beautiful, messy process? That’s what we are asking now – and I’d like to share the bits of clarity and calling we see in the midst of the great jumble of amazing ideas and deep passion.

In the midst of absorbing the incredible amount of data the process generated, a few committee members began to realize that all the ideas really fell into five key categories. We called those categories “trees,” with the individual ideas as branches and twigs emerging from the tree trunks. Every idea fit somewhere. Some branches tangled into other trees; they all shared the same soil: our LaSalle history and commitment to faith, social justice and advocacy. The five trees we identified are:

  • Investing in Cornerstone Center as a way to make it a better place of service and hospitality to the community. This tree has branches such as adding laundry and showers for Breaking Bread, the green roof, and investing in Leslie Hall … plus a dozen other great ideas.
  • Deepening our connection to the neighborhood through programs that serve our neighbors. This is likely the biggest tree. Ideas include establishing an Empowerment Zone, purchasing additional property, expanding existing ministries, services for the disabled, and many, many more.
  • Grow our connection to the world, including our global neighbors. Ideas on this tree include deepening partnerships across Chicago and around the world, including in Tanzania, Ghana, and El Salvador – then finding more ways for LaSallers to connect to these initiatives.
  • Caring for the spiritual and community life of LaSalle is a tree that emerged strongly from our mini summit, and also from the individual interviews. Many of the ideas on this tree are low cost/no cost ideas that LaSallers could develop with very modest resources.
  • Securing the future of LaSalle is the final tree. This tree addresses the physical and financial needs of the church as we maintain our commitment to our turf (one of the church’s core values). Ideas on the branches here include caring for the stained glass windows, addressing the need for parking, and establishing an endowment or launching a capital campaign.

Now that we see how every idea fits onto one of these five trees, the leadership council knows better how to direct our prayer and our ongoing research. Throughout February and March we’re going to dig into these trees and their branches more clearly. It remains a beautiful and inherently messy process, but we feel the support of the church through its engagement and prayers.

There is one additional detail we want everyone to know: the time for sharing ideas is not yet over. If you’ve had a brilliant idea burning on your heart or that is repeatedly raised in your prayer schools, but you haven’t yet shared it – do so this week. Write it up in a quick email and send it to me ( or to another committee member.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who is leading and participating in a prayer school. I cannot begin to express how valuable the feedback – in the form of prayer, ideas, admonitions, and suggestions – has been to this process. The work of the prayer schools is just getting started: please keep praying, especially for clarity, for the ability to listen deeply and to see the hand of God as it moves throughout our congregation, and for each of us to set aside our own desires in order to align with where God is calling us as a church.

Amber Johnson
Chair, Loaves & Fishes Leadership Council




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