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     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. 
     Our March update features a brief "testimony" of some amazing missional unity happening through an Alpha course, along with two upcoming gatherings - one in a couple weeks, one later this summer - that we'd love you to consider attending.
 
Peter Newburn is a member of The Initiative. He has served full-time in various Catholic ministry settings for 38 years, consistently seeking out intentional friendships across denominational lines.  He is formerly on staff with Alpha USA, served with his family as a missionary in Cameroon for three years, and is passionate about promoting the call of the Gospel and missionary discipleship.  Pete and his wife Joy have three teenage children.

     The community of Batavia, Illinois, is practicing intentional missional ecumenism by means of a city-wide, inter-congregational Alpha course.
     Alpha is an 11-week course for people to explore life's big questions and the Christian faith in a friendly, open and informal atmosphere. The Alpha course is used by faith communities in almost every country, language, and denomination all around the world. It offers the invitation to encounter Jesus for life-changing transformation in the context of Christian community, with an emphasis on radical hospitality. Each weekly session normally includes a meal, a short presentation, and small group conversation.
     In January 2022, in Batavia, in the far western suburbs of Chicago, I had the opportunity to help a group of churches come together to put on a city-wide Alpha course. Before we started, I gathered a team of 14 folks representing Catholic, Baptist, and Evangelical Covenant traditions to pray, help organize, plan, and then lead the course. Over the past couple months, the weekly sessions have had up to 35 participants representing seven different church congregations, as well as those of no church affiliation.
     One of the participants, Harry Pommier, who attends Holy Cross Catholic Church, stated:  "I've never seen people from different churches, including pastors, come together like this and participate in the sharing so openly and genuinely. Alpha has helped me by having people in my small group support me and hold me accountable in my faith."
     Because it emphasizes foundational aspects of faith shared by all Christians, Alpha is an excellent vehicle for Christian unity. The city of Batavia is experiencing the fruit of Christian unity, and people are being drawn to experience the Gospel, as they "see how those Christians love one another!"
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Chicago-area Friends: A gathering in two weeks! 

    Do you want to be a little more inspired by the Alpha program Pete shared about above? Do you want to learn about the essential link between unity and mission from John Armstrong, founder of The Initiative? Do you want to connect with some other local folks from Christian traditions other than your own who are working proactively for greater unity in the Church? 
     Then come out to the Batavia Parks Civic Center (327 West Wilson Street Batavia, IL) from 5:30 - 7:30pm on Sunday, March 20th and join us for a program we're calling "Christian Unity and the Call to Mission: Living the Kingdom of God Here-and-Now."
     John will be the featured keynote speaker, but you'll also hear more from Peter and a couple other folks who have been leading the Batavia Alpha outreach. And there will be plenty of time to build some new friendships as well as deepening some old ones!
     Dinner will be served at no cost (what a deal!), but a pre-registration is required (super helpful for knowing how much food to prepare). Click on the picture below to go to the short registration page.
 
Green Lake 2022 - Good to be together at the end of June

     Wherever you happen to be located geographically, I really want to encourage each one of you to take some time in the next couple of weeks to prayerfully consider joining us from June 20-24 at Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin for the annual gathering of The Initiative.
     Over the past two years, I think we were encouraged to discover the ways that we can remotely pursue our "way of love" and grow in the practices of prayer, sharing and work that form us in that way. But we also know how much richer and deeper it is when we can do that face-to-face. Now that gatherings are becoming a thing again, let's make the effort to be together and grow our friendships with Jesus and one another!
      If you've got any questions, please reach out to me by replying to this email. And like I said in the last update, we don't want money to be a barrier to your joining us, so a scholarship application is available (as well as a link to our scholarship account if you'd like to help others come).
     A click on the picture below gets you to the Green Lake registration page. The "early bird" discount will be applied to registrations until April 20th.
 
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     I will once again use this little space at the end of the update to express my gratitude to you for reading, for praying, and for participating in what we do.
    A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of preaching at my church on the piece of the Apostles' Creed that affirms our belief in "the holy catholic church, the communion of saints" and to have the moving experienced of being anointed and commissioned for my new role here with The Initiative. And in that service, I shared my hope that what we're doing here might
 become a small model (amongst many others) of the catholicity of God’s people anchored deeply in the self-giving love of Jesus. 
     By God's gift, each of you who reads and prays is a part of that hope.

Yours in Christ's Love,
       Scott Brill
       Executive Director
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         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. 
         I had hoped to get this May update out to you all a little earlier, but I've been battling Covid for the past 10 days and am slowly regaining energy for my daily work. The entire focus of this month's letter is our annual gathering in Green Lake, WI coming up the third week in June. God has been very gracious to us over the past three years as we've connected mostly remotely to encourage one another in living out our covenant. But I believe we've now come to an important moment in our commitment to be an "intentional initiative" where we need to have some time together in person. It's my great hope (and prayer) that each of you reading this will prayerfully consider joining us.
     
    On June 26, 2019 we concluded our last in-person gathering with a powerful time of worship, a procession, and a signing of our covenant (pictures below) in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Room at Green Lake Conference Center. We closed that time by saying, "come back here next June and we'll share all that we've learned about living this 'way of Christ's love.'" Obviously, that didn't work out as planned, so we have a lot of catching up to do!
    And the past three years - with all of the challenges and the opportunities for folk to embody 'the love of Christ that exceeds all divisions" - have grown my own conviction of the importance of what we're doing together 
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    Green Lake 2022 - What We'll Be Doing 

         The gathering will start with a post-dinner welcome reception on Monday evening, June 20th. The last session will be a renewing of the Covenant on Thursday evening June 23rd and the gathering will end with breakfast of Friday morning the 24th. Here's some of what we'll be doing in between those times:
    • Taking time to be formed in our "way of love." We'll be spending time each day in Scripture and worship, allowing God to anchor us deeply in His love and mold us in the virtues of a Jesus-shaped life.
    • Praying. The first and most important commitment of our community is to "pray daily for a radical increase of love in the whole body of Christ." We'll be doing that together at Green Lake.
    • Sharing our Lives. God has used our time together at past gatherings - especially over meals - to forge friendships between folk from various (and very different) Christian traditions. It's an amazing gift to experience.
    • Exploring the various ways folks are working proactively for greater missional unity. Everyone who will be there has a unique and distinctive "unity thing" they're engaged with. We'll be taking some time to workshop and encourage a few of those initiatives and ideas.
    • Being renewed through rest and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. This is not a conference intended to fill every moment with activity and content. And Green Lake is special place to take in the "garden beauty" of God's creation.
    • Honoring the memory and work of "unity saints" like Rev. Tony Williams and Fr. Tom Baima who have passed into God's loving presence this past year.
    A brief video encouragement
     
    Green Lake 2022 - Why you should consider attending

         Here's how I would describe in one sentence the Green Lake experience: “Friends with a unity gift who are looking to be affirmed and encouraged in community.” If that resonates with you in any way, then I think you should give serious consideration to coming in June.
         I think we've all learned over the past three years that our calling to missional unity is a fragile gift and that it doesn't come easily. Those of us who are trying to live out that calling can feel alone and weary from the work. And especially as we've all experienced heightened isolation from "pandemic life" we want our members and friends to be reminded that God loves you, we love you, and we're glad you're doing what you're doing in living out this way of Jesus' love.
         We don't expect that everyone who comes to Green Lake will feel called to sign the covenant. Even if you just want to explore our way and practices, or grow some new or renew some old friendships with a diverse but "like-hearted" community, then this could be a deeply encouraging and inspiring week for you.
          Finally, we don't want money to be the one reason you don't come the Green Lake. We have some scholarship funds to help you get there, and a link to the scholarship application is available here.
         A click on the picture below gets you to the Green Lake registration page. And our Leadership Council has decided to extend the "early bird" discount all the way until Memorial Day, so take advantage of that!
     
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        Thanks, as always, for reading these updates, and (for this one) prayerfully considering joining us next month at Green Lake. As I've been sleeping, eating, and working in our spare bedroom for the past 8 days (in order to avoid spreading the virus to Claire), I've been once again reminded of how demoralizing it is to be in isolation. I know I will need the renewing experience of Green Lake as much as anyone!
        Feel free to reply to this update with any questions or if you need more information. I've switched the giving button below to the Green Lake scholarship fund for this and next month's update. And let me know too if you aren't able to come but would be willing to donate airline miles to help a few people get there. Thanks! 

         And in everything, may you continue to know and experience how "good and pleasing it is to dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133:1)

    Yours in Christ's Love,
           Scott Brill
           Executive Director
     
    Give to the Green Lake Scholarship Fund
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