Coaching Faithful Innovation

Gwen Odney

Coaching Faithful Innovation

I left our first coaches' meeting last May with a folder full of Faithful Innovation strategies for deep listening, powerful questions, communication, and eventually action. All centered around what God might be up to in the church and community of my assignment. We were to begin with dwelling in scripture, and I was to remain neutral about their conversations and plans, providing encouragement and accountability. It all seemed rather nebulous--until I met my team! (What is a coach without a team?). I had hit the jackpot of five women and an interim priest who were passionate about their faith and their church as well as their community. We met first on zoom, and connected in person at the Southern Process meeting in July, still a little hazy on what we were doing, but with no doubt that we and the Holy Spirit would find a way.

We gathered in person for our second meeting so I could see their church and neighborhood. We sat around a cafe table to talk and laugh and nibble. They talked of listening to faith stories at coffee hour, the difficulty in gathering parishioners for a neighborhood walk, and exploring possibilities of experiments. I began to see the gifts each brought to the group. Before Christmas they created a community prayer wall on the lawn of their church, listened to the stories of people who stopped to ask for prayers and share their trials, deeply moving the team. And they aren’t done yet!

A lot has happened since our first meeting. One person left the team early on, the very supportive interim priest has retired, and fortunately, a newly ordained deacon has joined. It was the untimely death of a team member just recently that made me realize that this is all more than just coaching. We have become caring friends —sisters in Christ, having shared scripture, faith stories, and love of church and community. We'll be there for each other at the memorial of our friend.

Other Faithful Innovation plans of our team are afoot, and I'll be happy to listen, guide, and set up meetings. Most of all, I want to acknowledge what a gift this process has been to bring me in close contact with Episcopal neighbors committed to sharing the love of Christ.