I sometimes wonder why I occasionally reread the letter I sent to the TCPC board nearly three years ago. In that letter I agreed to assume the role of board president of the Center as of January 1, 2006 but with a few “minor conditions.” I had been active with TCPC since 1996 at that point and should have had a pretty good idea about what assumptions I should make.
Since these new responsibilities were going to cut into my “retirement time,” I wanted to be clear about how I was going to protect that time. After all I was planning to write a book and I just spent a lot of money setting up a woodworking shop that was going to help me make beautiful furniture in “my more quiet years.” So I wrote that I would volunteer to take on this “part time” responsibility but only if we could move the office to nearby location in the state of WA, if I could keep my travel to a minimum and if I could limit my work time to twenty hours a week.
I think I kept that letter so I can have a good laugh now and then. We did move the “office” to Washington State where my wife and I had already moved to start my early retirement. The beautiful table saw that was to have been the center for my budding woodworking skills is still in the crate and the book, maybe half done, has moved through two generations of computers with nary a word added since I left Southern California, almost five years ago. For two years I have achieved MVP status with Alaska Airlines because of the number of miles that I have traveled in a given year. Needless to say, there was never a twenty hour week and today I suspect I am much closer to three times that amount, although I refuse to keep track, so I really do not know.
So what happened? I suspect that my personality (some would say personality flaw) has something to do with it. I am a workaholic and have been that way for as long as I can remember. I like to create new things or make them better. When things are running smoothly or simply require management oversight, I am quickly bored. My brain is constantly asking, “How can we change this or do this better?” But there is a price for creating change and in my experience that usually means a lot of hard work and diligence.
Secondarily somewhere along the way as I began to read more TCPC emails from people I had never met and I heard more life stories from people I hardly knew, I discovered that there was a real hunger for serious dialogue about faith, spirituality and religious beliefs. I lost count a long time ago the number of people who asked; “Why haven’t heard this before?” And the more often this happened the more I realized that there were a lot of people who were counting on TCPC to initiate and foster that kind of discourse. I tend to take things personally so it became “a call” of sorts to see that this occurred and I have assumed some responsibility to see that it does.
And finally, there really is a progressive religious movement and it is growing. Just in the last three years we have seen an explosion of organizations, scholars and even lay people using the term-”progressive Christianity.” Of course there is still a lack of clarity about what that term means but at least the dialogue is out in the open and not in the back rooms of seminaries or the religious departments of some universities. It is our assumption that one of our mandates is to provide resources and a forum to help each other clarify what we mean by that term, with the basic understanding that it will always be changing; it will always be evolving.
The impact on TCPC would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Our web activity has increased tenfold, our email has grown five fold and the demands for speakers and workshops continues to exceed our expectations.
What we have learned from all of this it that there is a hunger in our society today for a tangible, viable and compelling spiritual path. More and more people want to talk openly and frankly about faith, belief and spirituality. They get excited about finding a place where they can talk freely about a religious experience that no longer works for them. Most of them want not only a healthy dialogue but they want to find solid information about the religion of their tradition so they can choose, knowing that they are making informed decisions.
So we work- most of us as volunteers with a couple others who are willing to work for less than they could earn doing other things because they believe in the purpose and the call. We read the emails; we hear the phone calls; and we know what people are saying-”Why haven’t I heard this before?”
We do not need to be the leader or number one. We just need to do what we apparently have been called to do and to do it better-that means finding more effective ways of sharing the progressive Christian message. You are going to see many changes over the next few months, so keep your eyes and ears open. We have spent the last six months developing a viable strategic plan and we are in the process of implementing it. You will see changes in the site and in the expansion of resources that we will be offering to churches, small groups and individuals.
We are very excited about Cross Walk America joining us to make some of these things happen. The leaders and supporters of CWA bring a spirit and passion to our organization and the movement as a whole that is contagious. You can expect some significant regional walks to happen sometime in the near future.
Like so many not-for-profits that only thing that holds us back is the need for significant funding. We are tackling that head on by adding numbers of individual and organization contributions. And we are preparing documents and preparing to position ourselves for outside funding for the first time in the history of our organization.
So jump aboard folks, buckle up and hold on. We are headed into the future and the future is now.