Thanks so much for reading this month’s news from The Initiative, a community committed to “walking in deeper friendship with Jesus and his followers, so that the love of Christ might exceed all divisions.” We do this primarily through prayer, sharing of our lives, and proactive work for greater unity. This month we’ll look back on what we learned in 2023, look forward to some of what we’re anticipating in 2024, and offer a couple of resources for walking in unity in December and January.

 December seems like a good time for me to briefly reflect on the past year and offer some comments on what I think we learned as an Initiative community about “love greater than division” and our three practices of prayer, sharing, and intentional work that form our way of life.

I believe the biggest “takeaway” from 2023 is that we learned how vital it is – for each of us and our life in God – for us to have relational encounters with folks who are different than we are. I’m certain that we would like to have more of those kinds of encounters, but our culture and the routine of our lives often silo us, and we end up spending most of our time with people who are most like us.
     In contrast, the heart of missional ecumenism is the intentional movement toward others. This is how Jesus sent the disciples out on their first missionary endeavor: in a place of humility and vulnerability, to people whom they were unsure how they would be received (see Mark 6:8-10). This is how Jesus came to us in his first advent.
But this movement does not come naturally to us. We need space in our schedule and in our lives to practice this kind of going toward others. Through the regional gatherings we hosted, as well other events and meetings we were a part of this past year, we learned that The Initiative is uniquely positioned to offer opportunities for folks to have these kinds of in-person encounters across difference and division.
To that end, our major focus in 2024 will be to host and promote more of those encounters. One critical way we’re going to be doing that is through establishing chapters of The Initiative in various parts of the country. I’m excited for the ways that this chapter strategy can be a formational experience for more and more people in the year ahead!

     How can you be involved in this new (pun intended) initiative? I can think of four ways:
  • You can join a chapter once it’s established in your area. Or you can help establish one! The next few monthly updates will have more information on how that’s happening.
  • You can host a one-day or weekend unity encounter in your church or in your community. Reply to this update or reach out through our website or Facebook page if you’re interested
  • You can pray. In addition to our practice of praying daily for a radical increase of love in the whole body of Christ, you can join others from the community in praying together. After January’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we’ll be starting a monthly Zoom prayer time.
  • You can give generously to provide the resources we’ll need for expanding this work. You can do this either with a one-time end-of-year gift or with an ongoing monthly commitment. Click on the button below and follow the instructions on the donation page it links to.

Resource of the Month – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

    Beginning more than a century ago and taking place between the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter (January 18) and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25), these eight days offer Christians from various traditions the opportunity to come together across our divisions to pray together – for the deepening of love within the Body of Christ and for the healing and well being of our neighbors throughout the world. This year’s theme, liturgies, and prayer guides were developed together by Christian churches from Burkina Faso in western Africa, based on their reflections of the familiar text in Luke 10:25-37.
Members and friends of The Initiative are helping to plan and host prayer liturgies in places like Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston during those eight days. Watch our Facebook page and website more information on specific dates and times.
Are you interested in learning more about how you might be able to participate or help organize a prayer event in your community during the Week of Prayer? Use this form to let us know and someone will be in touch with you with resources or connections.

A Sermon for the Season

Last weekend, I had the privilege of preaching about Mary’s Song (the Magnificat) and the way that the song (and Mary herself) is gift to the whole Church – at the Presbyterian church in Connecticut that I grew up in.

 Advent and Christmas remind us that as Christians we worship a God who, through His incarnation, always moves towards us in love rather than away from us in fear. 
May each of you who reads this newsletter experience a deepening of this seeking love of God, and may you be sent out into your world with that love, as the Son was sent by the Father (John 20:21).
And thank you for the gift each of you is to me and to our community – through your friendship, prayers and generosity!

Yours in Christ’s Love,
Scott Brill
Executive Director