Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted November 22nd, 2017

“Growing an Engaged Church: How to stop “Doing Church” and start being the church again” by Albert L. Winseman is turning out to be a thoughtful read. Recommended by Leadership Team Chair, LaMonte Rothrock, this book helps tackle the questions of – how we are ‘being church’. We learn that people who are ‘being church’ are engaged in their congregations and can claim four truths: 1) I know what is expected 2) I have the opportunity to do what I do best 3) My spiritual needs are being met and 4) My opinion counts. Structured to give feedback to four corresponding questions, chapter five includes a  twelve question sample survey that gathers information on 1) What do I get? 2) What do I give? 3) How can we grow? and 4) Do I belong? Choosing actions that address these four core concerns can move us from stasis to dynamic and vital growth.  Winseman claims that in addition to attending to these four areas, there are two myths that keep us from moving into becoming a spiritually vital and healthy community; Myth 1) “Believing leads to belonging” Myth 2) “An active member is a faithful member.” Research has shown that people do not come to church because they believe but rather they come to church because they want to belong. When we focus on nurturing people’s sense of belonging – when they feel they belong – and they can tell you what is expected, how they are doing their best, how their spiritual needs are  being met and why their opinion counts – then and only then do people commit to a spiritual path in their spiritual community – then they believe. Winseman additionally addresses Myth two by stating, “Activity that is not the result of engagement leads to burnout. And burned-out members eventually leave: psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically.” Why do we care? Why do we wish to be engaged with any church at all? Why does it matter that we participate in a community of faith? We go to work, we volunteer and we participate in a wide array of social activities. We can have all our special interest and social needs met in these ‘other’ places in our lives. So why church? At its purest – the church is the one place in society that does not exist for its own self-preservation. It does not exist to promote itself or its own agenda or its own perspective. The CHURCH exists to be God in this world. ENGAGED participants in church life are active BEING the church. ENGAGED participants in church life are active BEING God in this world. From this perspective, it is well worth working on becoming a Growing and Engaged Church.    – Pastor Kathryn

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted October 19th, 2017

Greetings Fellow Pilgrims,

The weather is shifting, and I welcome it.  The cooler days of fall invite us to spend more time outside playing, laughing, loving.  I love walking out on our deck to let our dog out for her morning routine, and as I breathe deep the autumn air, I feel alive.  New.  Refreshed.  The cool air stings my lungs, yes.  But it is a joyous feeling.  These are the moments that let me know I am alive.  That life is good.  And for all that is, I am eternally grateful.

I am supposed to find ways to inspire with these words in the newsletter or offer some profound wisdom/insight.  I don’t know that I have either this month.  I simply want to share how joy filled I am to be here.  In this space.  With you all on this amazing journey.  There is so much going on in our world that we could lament or condemn or be angry about, but each morning as I stand on my deck, looking over my yard, watching Goldie explore the fence, I laugh.

Because as the sun rises, revealing the deep blue sky above, showing me all that is, I am blessed.  Those early morning moments afford me the time to reflect on my life, and I feel so incredibly thankful.  Kendra has a great job, and she loves going to work.  So many in the world dread clocking in, and my best friend, my partner in life, drives an hour so that she can make a difference.  She loves it, and that brings me joy.  It is not only joy I feel, because as I stand on that deck, facing the west, feeling the rays of the sun sneak in from behind me, I cry.  But not necessarily tears of sorrow.

There is much about the future that I do not know and much of it I fear.  I wonder what will my kids become?  How will they be treated?  What world are we giving them?  These questions cause anxiety to rise up within me that almost stops my heart.  But then standing on that deck, echoing from somewhere deep within me, I hear my children’s laughter.  As much as the world seems to be descending into a dark abyss, the laughter of my children snaps me back to reality.  Daniel and Reyna are surrounded by family who love them.  They have friends who play and laugh and dream dreams with them.  They have a church family who treat them as their own.  Yes the world might seem like a bleak place, but God is still God and the world is good.  Reflecting on all these truths empowers me to sigh with a sense of peace that cannot be taken away, nor does the world we inhabit understand that peace.

It is a peace that is out there.  Yes, in some faraway place, but on those brisk mornings on my deck, I realize that same peace is within me.  It is the active presence of the Holy Spirit moving back and forth.  It is the Spirit of laughter in my kids.  It is the hyper active Labrador that chases a rabbit all over our yard, never able to catch her prey.  It is Kendra’s love that stands with me every day.  And it is in each one of you, my church family that walks with me.  These truths give me peace, and they cause me to take deep breaths and say Amen.  Thank you.  Praise be to God for all that is and all that will be.

The day is coming, soon I think, when standing on my deck, each morning, will be filled with the winds that do not comfort but steal my breath.  I will not worry about those days, not yet.  They are still in the distant future.  What I am going to focus on is the now.  Today.  And all that God has blessed me with.  Will you join me in celebrating the good in our lives?  Will you celebrate, with me, all the gifts God has given us?  And will you walk with me, and my family, in giving thanks for those awe filled, daily experiences that illuminate the work of God in our lives?   So join me.  Stand with me on whatever morning inspiration filled deck you have and breathe deep in the power of the Spirit moving in our lives.  Amen.    — Pastor Jerry

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted September 19th, 2017

Who likes to go first?  As a child going first, for me, somehow seemed very important.  In elementary school I remember racing other children to the front of the lunch line just to be first only to have the Teacher send me to the back of the line for being inconsiderate of others.  I was used to being in back of the line by virtue of my last name beginning with a “W”.  Somehow my positive self-esteem was attached to being first, at least once in a while, which infers that being last in line was hard on my self-esteem.  So, at that stage in my life an uptick in my self-esteem was always welcomed.   Being first in our society carries an air of importance and status.  Being first in our society means you are “somebody”.  Being first in our society indicates deserved or expected recognition for hard work, for diligence, for accomplishment and achievement, for being important.  Usually dignitaries or guests of honor go first at banquets or occasions of state.  Being second in the space race to the Soviets stung our national pride, but there was redemption in our nation by being first to the moon.  We take great pride and consider it success when we are first in line to purchase tickets for a major event or concert.  We are important or prideful when we are owners of a first edition book or publication.  We are important when we are first to view damage and destruction; to be first with the latest gossip; to be first in achieving a new world record in sports, racing, or highest dollar paid for artwork or an antique. The drive to be first is strong and got persons to the North and South poles; to be the first to climb Mt. Everest.  The world is full of “firsts” from the past and “firsts” unknown and yet to be.  How important is it to you to be first?  We live in a first world nation which carries an air of importance and responsibility.  What does it mean to us when we hear the words “America First” from national leadership?  How important is being first when it comes at the expense of others and their livelihood, well-being, and self-esteem – in country and abroad?

While being first can be fun and feel good, being first can also be uncomfortable and unsettling.  In the face of a transgression against the other, who will be the first to apologize?  Following the heat of an argument or conflict, who will be the first to say “I am sorry”?  In the face of an infraction or incursion upon another’s dignity and personhood, who will be the first to admit wrongdoing?  Who will be first to say “I love you”?  Who will be the first to forgive and to offer grace?  Being first in these instances may not be as glorious, but they are no less important – even greater!  Being first in these situations carries with them an air of humility and vulnerability.  Being first in these encounters requires our ego and pride to be secondary to another’s injuries, hurts, wants and needs.

We are reminded in scripture from I John 4:19 that “…we love because God first loved us”.  God took the first step toward humanity by sending Jesus as a baby to reconcile our human imperfections.  This was an act of love on God’s part.  Jesus’ example and teaching about love, forgiveness and grace and eventual sacrifice in the biblical narrative was a “first” of epic and biblical proportions.  God became vulnerable to the vagaries of the whims of humanity, when with God in a position of being first, could have chosen otherwise.  God so loved the world – FIRST!

May we be as quick and generous to love; to apologize; to admit wrong doing; to place ourselves as second and even last as God is to love us and embrace us.  We would do well with a little more love in our world today.  We love because God first loved us.  May it be so.

Chris Whitacre

Pastoral Care Minister

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted July 20th, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brother:

I can’t believe how fast the summer has gone. It is July 19th and for some students, school begins in a month. It seems, as Daniel suggested last night, “like only two days ago school got out,” and now we have to begin thinking and planning for the new school year. WOW! Time flies when you are really busy and having a lot of fun.

It has been a wonderful summer and I want to share some of our adventures with you. This summer our experiences have given me a lot of hope for the future of our church, our denomination, and our world. It all started with a quick trip out my front door.

At the end of May, Kendra and I took our kids to Camp Colorado work camp. After that, we had the blessing of taking Daniel to his first Camp Colorado experience. And yes, camp changed his life. Our little one wanted to stay. He asked when he gets to go back. He wants to invite others to join him. More than that, he has more self-confidence and his love for the church has grown. More importantly, his faith matured in amazing ways. Just from Daniel’s experience, I should have known this was going to be an adventure-filled summer.

Not long after Daniel’s faith building voyage at Camp Colorado ended, I began my own week of exploration and transformation with senior high students at Camp Colorado. As much as previous weeks at camp have changed me and made me grateful for our young people, this year was different. From the beginning there was a different feel to our community and one that I couldn’t name very well. Not at first. But by Friday, as we were preparing to return home, I realized what was happening.

Healing happened all over at camp this year. Lives were changed. Folks learned to trust one another and to lean on each other. Tears flowed. Laughter ensued. And by the end of the week, God’s loving spirit saturated all of us and stayed with us as we returned home. This week, this powerful week of camp reminded me that this generation of students is amazing and our world is in great hands.

From camp to conference involved a lot of driving and some anxiety filled days (not because of my driving but because of the unknown of what could be happening at Annual Conference).  At Annual Conference, our children spent the days hanging out with kids their own age. Reyna and Daniel took to this new experience like fish to water. By the end of day one, they were asking when they would get to go back for day two. And while my kids were being loved and building community with folks their age, I was at a table with sisters and brothers from all over doing the same. Yes, as a denomination we have some difficult days ahead but if we can keep treating each other with the love and respect that I felt at my table, I also see good days coming.

I ended my crazy days of summer at a work camp in Waco, Texas. I directed a senior high camp with students from Maryland and Pennsylvania. That week affirmed what I had already been feeling. As a denomination, we are in great shape. Not just because the young people in the Church of the Brethren are wonderful but that there are leaders empowering young people to leadership. Also, God’s love is tying us together as a community of faith and we are remembering how to love as God loves. We might struggle but we remain bound together. We will be ok because we are tied to each other and together, we can and will overcome any and all adversities that come our way. To the glory of God and for our neighbors good. Amen.

– Pastor Jerry

Musings

Posted June 22nd, 2017

This is a picture of a stream recently visited on our family’s trip to New Mexico.  Located in Taos Ski Valley, it was running full capacity from the winter snow melt and the banks strained to contain the freezing, rushing water.  The day was bright, clear and gorgeous – the sound hypnotic and mesmerizing as it carried away stresses of the heart and soul, even if only for a moment.  The wonder and beauty of nature has powers of restoration and renewal.

The photo was taken using a cell phone.  Not only is this moment captured in a still photo, but I also recorded the sight and sound on a video, as well.  I now have sight, sound, and memory of being there.  Etched within my memory is the smell of pines in the mountain air.  When I revisit this place – a frozen moment in time – the sensory experience rushes back.  This memory, its sight and sounds, can again and again, have potential to ease moments of stress or worry.  The picture and video remain as a touchstone and a memory of meaningful experience.

The experiences of life and faith work in much the same way.  We experience the life of the church within community defined by moments of; worship, potluck meals, Communion, Love Feast, work days, camp, disaster work trips, Vacation Bible School, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, study of the Bible, Baptism and membership.  What faith experiences serve as touchstones to your faith journey and bring forth meaningful memories?  How might these moments provide growth, reflection, and inspiration?

Faith experiences can be full and very dynamic – like a flowing stream trying to spill over the banks that strive to confine it.  Knowing God’s love for us and the world, the experiences of faith, in all its many respects, is life giving, refreshing, and can hardly be contained.

The memory of the rushing water remains. Inspiring to me – it represents hope, patience, and renewal.  The fresh chill of the rushing water represents a welcome reprieve from the drought in the Rocky Mountain West.  The surrounding landscapes of endless green and ever-flowing water appeared plentiful.  This life giving water speaks to me of God’s –all-knowing presence in the world; in times of drought and times of plenty.  I am reminded of the life giving quality of faith; in times of spiritual drought and times of spiritual plenty.  Life and faith ebb and flow together – not always in the same way or at the same time but together, as one.

What, for you, are the touchstones of life and faith that provide hope, promise, inspiration, and serve as a reminder of God’s abundant love and presence in your life and the world?

Pastor Chris