The Gospel of Tiny Ideas

Meighan (Intro): Karen is an independent self-starter, good sport, capable, no ego. I can explain what I need or want, hand it off to her, and trust that she’s going to do it well and on time. I’ve never seen her lose her temper. She is well organized, sends reminders without an undertone of “you’re late–again.”

Karen: Thank you for 13 years of good meaningful work in a supportive environment. When I started at Prospect, I had been writing prolifically for many years but had published nothing whatever. Since then, I have had many short stories in anthologies and just celebrated the release of my 6th novel, which I started researching around the time I started work here. Is this some blessing from Prospect? I guess we’ll see!

Among writers, I tend to preach "the gospel of tiny ideas."
--When I was young, I had the mistaken notion that I couldn't start writing a book until I had a big, perfect, complete idea;
--While big ideas do sometimes come, I have discovered that I can make a lot out of something small: an overheard conversation, a sign with a burned-out letter, a "what if?" question;
--throwing a lot of little ideas together lets them talk to each other and make unforeseen connections.

This happens in churches, too! I have observed many small ideas getting big at Prospect:

--How will we pay for a new stove? What about a fundraising concert? (John Daugherty) It was loads of fun and a success. This led to other successful concerts for other causes.

--Jim Miller and Frank Trujillo noted that if we expanded the platform in the chancel, we'd have more room for musical and dramatic performance; this led to chancel remodel and sanctuary light and sound upgrades (which eventually opened up possibilities for hybrid worship);

Meighan, you’ve probably noticed some of these, too.


–When the neighbors complained about a man sleeping and changing clothes on our porch, we held two community sessions showcasing organizations dealing with homelessness and then asked the neighbors what they might be willing to help with. We settled on Mary’s Place and hosted families, with great help from neighbors, two years in a row.

--How could we worship online during early pandemic lockdown? Early efforts led to smooth, engaging Zoom worship and eventual hybrid worship, plus transition to Zoom for most church meetings.

–When the Lilly grant didn’t come through with funding for my sabbatical, Prospect took on a “Hats Off!” fundraiser and came up with the money. It started with a vague notion (from Cora?) of some kind of online auction and grew into an entertaining Zoom evening that both raised funds and drew the community together during the pandemic.


I think our successful experience with the chancel allowed people to look at the rest of the building with fresh eyes:

--What if we rented our unused nursery to 350 Seattle? This eventually led to renovation of all 4 small 3rd floor spaces into rental offices, which will soon all be in use;

--How could we better use the big room on the 3rd floor? (Terri Dowling) This led to a renovated conference room with flexible furnishings; new music storage area; re-carpeting 2nd floor; and other improvements.

And there’s the office manager’s job itself, which has evolved over the years because of little suggestions and ideas.

–Early on in my tenure, we started a Facebook page and Nextdoor profile, which have been useful in promoting events to the congregation and beyond;

–A group studied options for online donations. We have now been using Vanco Payment Solutions for many years, which has allowed for more consistent giving, especially in the early days of the pandemic. As Vanco adds new features, we continue to make updates to how we use them;

–Abi Velasco, our first Justice Leadership Program intern, recommended updates to the website and switching our email newsletters over to Mailchimp, which allows for a larger mailing list, and more graphics and internet links than regular email;

–The Building Access Committee recommended listing the renovated conference room on Peerspace to bring it to the attention of potential renters who wouldn’t know about it otherwise. There hasn’t been an overwhelming response, but we’ve had many successful bookings over the years, resulting in rental income we wouldn’t have received otherwise;

–A pilot project of offering recital space to music teachers on a pay-what-you-can basis has resulted in many more recitals–14 in 2022 and 14 in the first half of 2023 alone, compared to only 5 in 2019. Most were accompanied by generous donations.

Even in light of all this, it can be hard to share our ideas: a big idea might seem overwhelming. A small idea might seem silly on its own, or like it won’t make a difference. But every little bit counts!

It requires faith–trust–to share an idea: trust in oneself and in the person or group you share it with. What if it doesn’t go anywhere? What if it grows bigger than expected? What if it demands change? In a supportive community, no one person has to do the big project on their own. And a small idea can inspire other people’s thoughts and grow into a meaningful project. Like the seed that must be planted in good soil before it can become its full self, ideas–and the people who have them!--need nurturing conditions to grow into their full potential. God nurtures us, and we nurture each other.

This is a caring community that supports transformation, allowing our seeds to open to the world and serve others, rather than staying tightly packed into themselves. Although Prospect is a small, aging congregation, we have seen again and again that this is a group that takes on projects, and one bit at a time, gets them done. Amen.


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