“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1Photo by Eric Anderson
by Mike L. Perry
GLASTONBURY (04/17/2012) -- “Hope is not a strategy” is a saying that I have often heard in my professional life. One immediately recognizes the truth of this statement; that simply wishing for something will not make it happen. On the surface, this saying also appears to be dismissive of the importance of hope. Yet, upon reflection, one realizes this is not necessarily the case. Hope is critical in all important endeavors. As I have witnessed as a member of the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, there are many different kinds of hope.
Experiencing whole new varieties of hope is one reason why church matters to me.
Hope is certainly not a strategy, but if you really want something to happen, then it is important to first visualize it. Hope is a vision for a better future. Therefore, all individuals who want to achieve something truly great should first have hope. The same is true of organizations, which should have a shared vision of purpose with (at a minimum) hope that it can be realized.
My professional vision is to help create new clean-energy technologies that will, hopefully, make our world both healthier and more peaceful. At my work, we spend a lot of effort trying to reduce perceived risks, those things that could go wrong with new technologies. In other words, people fear the unexpected, and we do everything we can to eliminate that.
Additionally, we build things that must obey the laws of physics. For example, we know from the First Law of Thermodynamics that energy is conserved; it can neither be created nor destroyed. When we succeed in making even incremental improvements, we protect even these discoveries as trade secrets so others cannot use them without our permission.
One thing that I came to fully realize when I took on a leadership role at South Church is that the church and God operate differently than my work. A major reason is because a truly alive faith community dwells in the world of the Holy Spirit, which is totally unconstrained by the laws of physics. Love is not conserved; in fact, the more you give, the more you will receive. Additionally, people of faith expect the unexpected; in fact, we welcome the unexpected! We also welcome others into our faith community unconditionally; we strive to model Christ’s radical hospitality. We openly share with each other our personal joys and our deepest concerns. We also share an awesome vision of a world filled with peace and justice for all people. We hope, and pray, for this seemingly impossible perfect world because we know that with God all things are actually possible.
My faith in the power of a faith community has grown immensely since I became a much more active member of my church. And, my hope for the future of South Church now knows no bounds because I now know a truly differentiated type of hope, which is the radical belief that all things are possible with love and the Holy Spirit.
I have also learned that you don’t learn about unbounded hope in a book, not even the Bible. Church matters, because the greatest spiritual lessons are experiences, which church can provide if you are willing to fully participate.
Mike L. Perry is Past President of the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury UCC.