By John W. Coleman
Money, Time and Place, Gracious Leadership, Relationship, Truth, Wellness.
Those are the six Holy Currencies the Rev. Eric Law shared with Eastern PA Conference members in his interactive teaching session at their 2018 Annual Conference June 15. These essential values must circulate or flow among people to form a “cycle of blessings,” he said. They should continuously recycle through exchanges, like currency, to ensure that effective ministry can be both “missional and sustainable.”
“Think of your leadership, your discipleship like water,” advised Law, offering a theological lesson on spiritual ecology, in which everything in God’s creation is recycled and not discarded or wasted, a principle that he said should also apply to people. “God expects us to flow through the community, churches and ministries we’re a part of… and create new things out of nothing.”
Founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Kaleidoscope Institute, the popular Episcopal priest and prolific author leads a team that teaches “a holistic model for stewardship and congregational vitality” to religious groups across the U.S. and Canada. They also offer transformational approaches to becoming more multicultural and inclusive in ministry. Law provided anti-racism training for the Eastern PA Conference Cabinet in 2016. He also spoke at our 2012 Annual Conference.
Organizing about 20 volunteers on-stage, Law demonstrated the “equanimity of a sharing economy.” They received different amounts of notecards—some were given many, some a few and others none. But their giving and receiving ensured that in the end, all had some. “Give until you have less,” he said, explaining the path to sustainability. “Keep resources flowing, and you’ll find that you have all you need.”
“Reach outside your church,” he added, noting a well-known path to being missional. “Have relationships with people in your neighborhood.”
He offered an example of how the six holy currencies can interact to produce win-win results. In 2013 the Kaleidoscope Institute helped First Presbyterian Church of San Bernardino, Calif., invest in the wellness of students at an under-resourced high school next door that had only a 27 percent graduation rate. The city was broke and in bankruptcy (from which it has only recently emerged). The church had recently inherited about $100,000 from a bequest and wanted to invest it meaningfully.
With Law’s guidance, church members first developed relationships with faculty, staff and students and then invested funds to create a new multifaceted ministry together. They met weekly as Life Skillz Circles, using the Holy Currencies process. By generating open, receptive, compassionate interaction and joint activities, they provided “gracious leadership,” to help the students and to discover the truth of what they needed and how best to connect with them. Their goal was to foster wellness.
The fruits of their creative efforts included faithful attendance, improved student performance and graduation rates, public recognition by city officials and local media, at least two new Life Skillz Circles groups so far, and a new purpose and vitality for a once declining congregation. And all 50 Life Skillz students are now in college or college-bound.
Law’s training events typically last up to a week, far longer than his nearly three-hour talk at Annual Conference. Still, he taught, joked, sang, interpreted scripture and arranged interactive demonstrations. Watch it all on YouTube.