Small Groups of People: Being Who We Are


Northside Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor.

[Image Description: An image is taken from the top of a hill. In the foreground, there are green, leafy plants with orange and white flowers. In the distance and in the main part of the image, there is a yellow building with windows at the bottom and a brown roof on top. This is the building that Northside Presbyterian Church and St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church share together. On the left side of the image, there is a road, and along the road, there are colorful flags with rainbow colors. There is also a sign that reads “Wildlife Refuge.” Down the hill and closer to the building, there is a playground on the right side of the image. There is also a pathway that leads from the road to the building.]

In the wake of great need and a sense of urgency, we often ask ourselves, “What should we do?”

We need to ask this question and move in its direction, certainly. But sometimes, we may forget that being — simply being a community with a set of deep commitments — is itself a radical act. When small groups know their community-identity and act from there, it can be life changing.

I spent Sunday afternoon with the community of Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor. Together, as a small group of people, we had a mission retreat, pondering questions like,
What should we do?
What would we like to do together?
What needs do we feel called to address?
What are we already doing, and how might we build upon that?

We gathered with this framework and these kinds of questions on our mind, but within the first hour, the community began to talk about who they are and how that has transformed lives. For more than 40 years, Northside Presbyterian Church has been a community that affirms, includes, loves, serves, and celebrates LGBTQ people — honoring lives and relationships, and advocating to affirm the rights, dignity, and sacred worth of LGBTQ neighbors. And they have done this from the foundation of their faith.

Sadly, and at times so dangerously, people have come to believe that these faith commitments and these actions cannot go together. But of course, they can and they do. This witness is desperately needed, and Northside Presbyterian Church wants to continue to live in this way.

And so, in lifting this up with deep commitment, we began to raise possibilities for action from this place of community-identity.

Northside Presbyterian Church is a small group of people that has welcomed people in ways that have saved lives. Small groups of people can indeed change the world.

From this history, from this being, and from this present identity-commitment, I wonder what is possible next…

Renee Roederer

This post is a part of a series. Feel free to read the other pieces as well:
I Need Pentecost
Small Groups of People: World-Changing

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