The Thriving Congregations Initiative provides us the opportunity to leverage Montreat’s historic convening power to assist us in building our new identity as a place that trains local congregations to address their most urgent challenges. We will engage 45 Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in a two-year cooperative inquiry curriculum that maintains our cohort model and aims to deepen their knowledge of their Reformed tradition, fortify their identity, strengthen relational connections in their community, and build collective agency to empower their mission. Grounding skills of community organizing and qualitative leadership in key practices of the Reformed tradition (listening, gathering, discerning, witness/service, and continuing reformation), our initiative accompanies congregations through a communal, active learning process to develop a shared theological vision of who God is and what faithfulness means in this particular context so as to determine its own core values, convictions, and commitments. The process will guide three cohorts of 15 congregations through a five-module process comprising semi-annual plenary workshops held at Montreat Conference Center, affinity group learning communities coached monthly via Zoom, individual congregational mentoring, ministry seed grants, and site visits by program faculty in order to facilitate skill-building and accountability. To date, we have developed curricula for our current Congregational Vitality programs using both staff and outside experts; in this initiative, we look forward to partnering with the Black Mountain School of Theology & Community, whose faculty of theological educators and church consultants will provide the pedagogical and research expertise we need to support this initiative.
Reforming Identity and Agency: Vital Practices for the 21st Century Congregation