by Darreby Ambler
Grace Church, Bath
“The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buechner
Back when my husband Michael Ambler was considering ordination, a wonderful thing happened to him: his discernment group. Here was a kindly disposed group of people on his side, helping him figure out his gifts as he clarified his mission in life. I thought, how wonderful would that be for any Christian, not just the ones seeking ordination?
Inspired in part by his experience, I developed Dream Teams, small groups of people who meet together to listen carefully to each other, help discern where God is tugging each person next, and then walk alongside each other as they take concrete steps to follow that call. Following a weekend discernment retreat, there are 8 action meetings, scheduled every week or two at the convenience of the team members. During and between those 8 meetings teammates help each other bring a new gift or goal to life, providing all the encouragement, accountability, and good humor that it takes.
After launching several teams for the Diocese of Colorado, this year I have brought my work home to Maine. Last fall I led a retreat at St. George’s in Sanford, where eight women are pursuing a wide range of goals. Becoming a police chaplain, turning a quilting passion into a business, finding a safe place for homeless young people in town – their goals are as diverse as they are. A grandmother with a flair for creative writing is composing a series of letters to her grandson from an imaginary animal friend to help him through a rough time. With a regular job and a life full of obligations, she particularly likes the fact that the goals are pursued in small steps. “The commitment to your team means you take that little bit of time to be creative. You can be very busy, but still accomplish your goal.” The Reverend Susan Murphy, rector of St. George’s, was open to try something new when I approached her last summer. Now that she has seen the group in action she says, “The people involved have all stated it has been life changing, and the support and care of each other goes way beyond ‘coffee house conversations.’ They minister to one another, pray deeply together and are encouraging others. The energy they have used and gained has helped all of us…The enthusiasm from this first group has spread to others in the congregation!”
This winter there are three new teams in the midcoast area, seven teammates from St. Bart’s in Yarmouth, and two teams of six from Grace Church in Bath. Again, our gifts and the dreams that come from them are inspiring in their diversity: tutor high schoolers in writing, get my medical invention affordable and into the hands of local people, write a historical mystery, finish a college degree (and get the coveted Maine Black Bears license plate!), start a camp for new writers, bring Lent Madness to my congregation.
It is important to note that Dream Teams are not a substitute for prayer or Godly counsel. Instead, they are a technique for helping people of faith move forward along their chosen path, and bring their own ministries and passions to life. And the fellowship they build along the way is as important as the goals themselves. Says Connie Butson-Halterman, owner of the Bath Book Shop, “The teams offer a time to get to know old friends in a a deeper way, and to meet new ones with their own unique gifts.”
If I’ve managed to intrigue you, please go to my website www.dreamteams.net. (I lead secular teams as well, so of particular interest to you might be the tab: Find a Team in the Episcopal Church.)
To clergy in particular the Rev. Susan Murphy of St. George’s, Sanford, adds, “If you are willing to be open to surprises of God’s grace and help your people grow deeper in faith I would encourage you to look into Dream Teams.”