One of the things people say about Williamsburg is that it is a small town in the truest sense. You cannot go too far without running into someone you know – or someone who knows you through someone else. I find that reality to be true at church all the time. Someone will come visit the church looking for a church home, and lo and behold, they realize they work (or worked) with a parishioner without realizing they attended Hickory Neck. Or I will have coffee with a newcomer, and we realize we have friends and acquaintances in common. In Williamsburg, there really is about two, if not one, degree of separation between most people.
In some ways, that is very good for a pastor. One of the many things we learn about in seminary is how important it is for clergy to get out in the community, to get to know the people surrounding them – not with the intention of evangelism; more with the intention of being a leader who can authentically lead within their community. That was one of the major reasons I applied to be in the LEAD Greater Williamsburg program. The program is a community immersion program for emerging and existing leaders, who also do a community service project for the wider community. As I approach graduation this week, I am especially grateful for this aspect of the program.
What LEAD taught me affirmed what I learned in seminary – it is so important to understand, know, and appreciate the community within which you do ministry. As much as I thought I had gotten to know many people in Williamsburg, the monthly classes and my 28 fellow classmates helped me see that there are so many people, companies, and agencies that I did not know. Maybe some people are okay with that lack of knowledge, but for me, working on that knowledge gap has not only helped me understand my own ministry better, it has helped me fall in love with the community even more. I am overwhelmed by the diverse, myriad ways that greater Williamsburg residents work to make our community better. This community is filled with incredible, inspirational people, and I surmise I have only scratched the surface.
Today, my reflection is two-fold. One, I am filled with gratitude for the amazing opportunity of being in the LEAD program this past year. Thanks to my classmates for an incredible year of making WMBGkind!! The blessings abound – from knowledge, to leadership development, to friendships, to joy! But two, I find myself wanting to connect more, and I would like to invite you to do the same. Whether you are here in the Greater Williamsburg area, or even in your own hometown, think about someone you have wondered about or admired from afar, and ask them to coffee. Get to know the people of your community – really know them: their work, their home life, their fears, and their joys. My guess is that the more you expand your connection to people in your community, the more you will see ways in which God is inviting you to bring blessing to your community!