Filters are good.
For several years, my wife Jamie and I have felt that change was coming. While things were great and 'comfortable' in my former ministry work (full-time deacon/admin/tech/etc at Church In The City), we talked often and dreamed much of jumping into a 'bivocational' lifestyle - for us, meaning we both are sharing the load of work / family / ministry together as much as possible. As we waited, discussed, prayed and sought diverse counsel, it became more clear that God was moving us into new things.
We felt God lead us to move our family into a new neighborhood and embed ourselves there. We felt He wants us to build bridges between communities of people that are divided (whether by race, economics, culture, denomination, etc). We felt that He wants us to be present and available to our neighbors and neighborhood.
Each of these promptings spurred us to action, and now we have embarked on a new journey as a family. We have bought a house in The Island neighborhood, located in the SW corner of Chicago's Austin community, which also borders the Oak Park and Cicero communities. We have transitioned out of my job / our leadership at Church In The City to be able to focus our time in our new 'place'. We have begun investing our energy in local presence and self-employment - me, doing freelance design & communications; Jamie, doing her textile artwork business, Prophet Gypsy Robot.
These changes have been both exciting, and to be honest, very stretching! ;) We know we are taking steps of faith, and though it is far from easy, it is so good.
God has given us clarity in vision, and we would summarize what He has led us to do in our future in two ways:
- Be active members of the local church in our 'place' (The Island and surrounding communities). To us, this means being present and available to our neighbors and neighborhood. It means restraint. It means filters. We cannot be everywhere, we cannot invest in everyone. But, we can be present and available and involved somewhere. So, we are spending time visiting churches in our neighborhood and getting a pulse for what is already happening here and how we fit into that. We are open to partnering or pioneering, but feel we need a season of settling, learning and discerning first.
- Be active members of the 'big-C' Church in our city (Chicagoland). To us, this means building unity and collaboration despite all the differences that could (and often do) cause us to not know each other or work together. So, we are 'showing up' to what others are doing, as well as investing time in both Pray Chicago (a city-wide movement of united prayer and collaboration) and Kin City Podcast (a podcast about listening and learning from Chicagoland voices across the lines that divide us).
*UPDATE* I am raising support to be able to invest time into Pray Chicago - read more.
These two areas of focus have become clear to us, and we are now running all of our decisions through this filter:
Will _______ (decision / event / job / initiative) bring us towards these two things, or will it lead us away from them?
This is what we have been discerning for a while now, and what we will continue to do. So far, we are finding beauty in the simplicity of our more-local lifestyle, and we see great opportunity in fostering new rhythms and habits as individuals and as a family.
So many friends and family have shared amazing counsel with us through the last several years - and boy, do we need it! We treasure the friendship and support of so many people, who know us and understand our hearts. One theme that has come out of this counsel, our prayers, and our reading, is the idea of longevity. We often want quick change. We often want instant metrics. We tend to think about a week or month or a year, rather than the long-term.
We don't know what life will look like in 5 or 10 years, but we do know this: God wants us (and all His people) to be 'faithfully present' to the places and people around them. We've chosen to embedded ourselves here on the West side of Chicago, and we hope to be here for a long time. We are trusting that God will use us as a small piece of His presence in the world, in our city, and in our neighborhood.
- Nate & Jamie
ps - here are some books that have been influential in our lives during this time of discerning: