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Pastor's Note - June 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 04 June 2012 21:30

From the Pastor

Welcome to Summer! We just celebrated Pentecost, a day that we lift up God’s pouring out of God’s spirit on all people: male and female, young and old, Republican and Democrat, gay and straight, rich and poor, black, brown, yellow and white, and, well, you get the idea. In the spirit of the season (that continues as “ordinary time” until Advent), we celebrate God’s Spirit that gathers diverse people together and celebrates the gifts that each person offers. How wonderful is that? Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, Christianity in the United States has seen continued restrictions on Roman Catholic nuns and at least two cases of fundamentalist Protestant preachers calling for detention camps or execution of LGBT people. From clamping down on those who serve those on the outcast, to preaching a gospel of hate, the public perception that Christians are projecting are ones that are more and more restricting and repellant to the culture that we live and breathe in. A culture that offers many gifts but could also use a
bit of transformation (e.g. ongoing wars, an astonishing gap between the wealthiest 400 Americans and everybody else, high poverty rates and people who are hungry, etc.)

I give thanks for the ongoing witness of Congregational Church. As do many congregations within the United Church of Christ, Congregational takes seriously Christ’s call to offer radical hospitality to all people. In a day when many outside the church seem more filled with love and grace than those who speak for the church, this witness of welcome is transformational and inspiring.

It takes a lot of practice to welcome people wherever they are on life’s journey without trying too hard or putting on any appearance of strings or pressure. But I think Congregational really has internalized this call. We are all still working on our issues and will always be learning how to be the beloved community. I am proud of this band of followers!

Another aspect of recognizing the Spirit’s work among us involves creating and sustaining community. I have heard that Mother Theresa once noted that the leading disease in America is loneliness. Given the fact that many of us live away from extended families and given the intense political polarization, more and more of us ache for community. Churches seem a natural antidote for that loneliness. We can bring our selves to a gathering of other people, each of us broken but striving, and give and receive nurture and encouragement. Given the hatefulness that the public face of Christianity often projects, we will likely have to earn credibility. How do we go about making our welcome known? How do we earn that credibility? As we all walk the talk, the Spirit will enable the witness.

In God’s peace,
Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 21:32
 
Pastor's note--May 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 17:02

 

From the Pastor

 

   I have been doing some reading about church vitality and renewal off and on since seminary. I recently purchased Diane Butler Bass’ Christianity for the Rest of Us, which is a 2009 book that explores ways of thinking about and being church. Her book concludes a three year study of various neighborhood congregations that are affiliated with “mainline” denominations (like the United Church of Christ). I think the book will be quite helpful as it not only chronicles the ups and downs of the neighborhood church, it points to practices that vital, faithful congregations practice, many of which we already do (like hospitality). After reading the book, I may suggest that various other leaders in the congregation read it so that we can have rich conversations. (See, another reason to go to Vision Coordinating Team meetings!)

   When I read a review of the book recently, I remembered that a couple of years ago, I had copied a 20 point renewal program from either her blog or another blog that credited Bass with the plan. I wish that I had the exact cite, or the right site. I find it insightful, humorous, and thought-provoking. I hope that you do as well.

 

Twenty Point Church Renewal Plan

Diane Butler Bass


Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.

 

Stop pretending you have a rock band.

 

Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.

 

Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.

 

Stop looking for the "objective truth" in Scripture.

 

Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.

 

Actually read the Scriptures. If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it. Start in Genesis, it's pretty cool. You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible. Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it. Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though. If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years. Don't worry: during those ten years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.

 

Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases. Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.

 

Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, really good food, and extraordinary music. By "extraordinary music" I mean genuine music. Soulful music. Well-written, well-composed music. Original music. Four-part harmony music. Funky retro organ music. Hymns. Taize chants. Bluegrass. Steel guitar. Humming. Gospel. We are the church; we have a uber-rich history of amazing music. Remember this.

 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

 

Learn how to sit with people who are dying.

 

Feast as much as possible. Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only. Humans can not live on symbols alone. Remember this.

 

Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.

 

Be vulnerable.

 

Stop worrying about getting young people into the church. Stop worrying about marketing strategies. Take a deep breath. If there is a God, that God isn't going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.

 

Figure out who is suffering in your community. Go be with them.

 

Remind yourself that you don't have to take God to anyone. God is already with everyone. So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing. Go be evangelized.

 

Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together. But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you. Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7. Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.

 

Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions.

 

This is a fool-proof plan. If you do it, I guarantee that you will attract young people to your church. And lots of other kinds of people too. The end.

 

I laugh when I see some of those. I feel proud of our congregation on some points. And I feel convicted on other points. I look forward to hearing from you what your reaction is.

 

Peace,
Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 October 2012 16:49
 
Pastor's Note - May 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 May 2012 21:36

From the Pastor

I have been doing some reading about church vitality and renewal off and on since seminary. I recently purchased Diane Butler Bass’ Christianity for the Rest of Us, which is a 2009 book that explores ways of thinking about and being church. Her book concludes a three year study of that various neighborhood congregations 1-6 are affiliated with “mainline” denominations (like the United Church of Christ). I think the book will be quite helpful as it not only chronicles the ups and downs of the neighborhood church, it points to practices that vital, faithful congregations practice, many of which we already do (like hospitality). After reading the book, I may suggest that various other leaders in the congregation read it so that we can have rich conversations. (See, another reason to go to Vision Coordinating Team meetings!)

When I read a review of the book recently, I remembered that a couple of years ago, I had copied a 20 point renewal program from either her blog or another blog that credited Bass with the plan. I wish that I had the exact cite, or the right site. I find it insightful, humorous, and thought-provoking. I hope that you do as well.

Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.
Stop pretending you have a rock band.
Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.
Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.

This is a fool-proof plan. If you do it, I guarantee that you will attract young people to your church. And lots of other kinds of people too. The end.

I laugh when I see some of those. I feel proud of our congregation on some points. And I feel convicted on other points. I look forward to hearing from you what your reaction is.

Peace,
Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 21:37
 
Pastor's Note - April 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 21:39

From the Pastor

As we plan for our Seder and our Maundy Thursday service, and as we look through the darkness towards the hope of Easter, I hope that each one of us allows ourselves to acknowledge dark times in our lives and in our world. Yet I also hope that each one of us holds on to the hope of new life that comes. I hope that we all trust in the promise that crucifixion isn’t the final answer but new life is. I hope that we all will be open to this newness of life however it may appear to us, whether in a new birth, a new phase of a relationship, new ministries, new confidence and sense of purpose. In each of the ways that new life will be around us, I hope that we see Easter, see Jesus and his life affirmed, in them.

As I continue to experience life, it seems for me more and more that Jesus appears to us in the ordinary moments of life, more than in dramatic moments. Author Frederick Buechner has written:

Jesus is apt to come, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but... at supper time, or walking along a road.  This is the element that all the stories about Christ's return to life have in common: Mary waiting at the empty tomb and suddenly turning around to see somebody standing there - someone she thought at first was the gardener; all of the disciples except Thomas hiding out in a locked house and then his coming and standing in the midst; and later, when Thomas was there, his coming again and standing in the midst; Peter taking his boat back after a night at sea and there on the shore, near a little fire of coals, a familiar figure asking, "Children, have you any fish?"; the two men at Emmaus who knew him in the breaking of bread.  He never approached them from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.

My hope for all of us is that after the sound of the trumpet turns silent, as the fragrance of the lilies fades, we experience Christ in our ordinary, day-to-day experiences. And may we be filled with God’s grace to be Christ to one another.

Peace,
Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 21:40
 
From the Pastor--March 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 02 March 2012 17:50

From the Pastor

As we continue our journey in Lent, a time that invites introspection and preparation to participate in new life, we have been having various conversations about church: what it means to be church, how we organize ourselves, what our mission is. It’s been a rather serendipitous experience to have so many, seemingly random, conversations that continue to touch upon this theme.

One of the interesting connections that these conversations have with the season of Lent is that there is an implicit recognition of our humanity. It seems that we recognize that even though we want to be just and faithful, we know that we aren’t always. We aren’t always patient and kind. We don’t always practice justice. We don’t always walk with humility with God – knowing that God is God (and that we are not). That is part of the human condition. It seems to be part of our very DNA.

One of the blessings, then, in being part of a faith community is that we acknowledge this fact to be true. We may see it more easily in others than ourselves (unfortunately) but we do know that we are all human and that we all need to grow. We recognize as part of our own spiritual growth that we aren’t always good or compassionate. We can deny it, but that is foolish as well as arrogant. We can be resigned to it, but that is lazy and tends toward immaturity. But we can use our own failures to teach us humility and empathy. This humility invites us into grace. Feeling less judgment toward others, we are free to accept ourselves and to practice compassion.

What does this have to do with the conversations about “church?” We all come together, agreeing to walk with one another, to deepen our relationship to God and to increase our service to one another and to the rest of the world. The focus of Lent on reflection and introspection encourages us to affirm our desire to do good as well to embrace humility.

I am encouraged by the depth of awareness and the conversations that people are having as we continue to wrestle together with how we, the Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, will live out the radically, inclusive love of Jesus and how we will “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.”

Shalom,

Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 October 2012 16:51
 
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