Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted September 19th, 2018

The second week of September I attended four and a half days of training in the area of bereavement, death, and dying.

For most individuals this becomes an unpleasant topic to ponder and encounter.  Rightly so, because when one is bereaved, grieving, or mourning, it is often the result of having lost a dear loved one, a cherished belonging, a companion pet, divorce, loss of home and place, loss of past, present, and future – we are sad, tearful, angry, hurting, and often feel confused, depressed, and without direction and purpose.  We experience losses of many kinds not limited to the previous list.  Loss is something we can encounter each day with varying intensity and for a variety reasons.

Elemental to our healing and convalescing from significant loss and grief is our capacity to acknowledge and integrate the reality of a death or loss.  This happens very differently and is never quite the same for each person over the span of time.  Our convalescence from losses and that feeling of being torn apart is less about “getting over it” and more about “living into and with” a new reality that has come into our lives.  In this way, we discover that our grief experience is not linear, but recursive in nature; that it is not predictable and is not bound to some arbitrary or named time frame.   In the words of Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Director of The Center for Loss and Life Transition, “…there is no reward for speed.”

There are common misconceptions about grief.  I will list ten and perhaps you may know of others.  1)  Grief and mourning is the same thing.  2)  There are predictable, orderly stages to grief and mourning.  3)  We should avoid the painful parts of the grief experience.  4)  Tears of grief are a sign of weakness.  5)  Being upset and openly mourning means the mourner is being “weak” in faith.  6)  When someone dies, the mourner only grieves and mourns for the physical loss of the person.  7)  The mourner should try not to think about the person who died on holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and other life markers.   8)  The mourner should be able to “get over” grief as soon as possible.  9)  Nobody can help the mourner with the grief/mourning journey.  10)  When grief and mourning are finally reconciled, they never come up again.

These ten misconceptions are ever around us and others, who are striving to heal and convalesce from significant loss.  With these in heart and mind, perhaps we can be ever more conscious and compassionate to others and ourselves whenever one or all of these misconceptions rears its unhelpful and hindering head.  Our task is not to judge others for how they are grieving, but to walk with and support one another in a spirit of love and grace.

May God comfort us and assist us in our own grief journeys and as we also come along side others in the midst of convalescence and healing.

From the works of Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Founder and Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, Ft. Collins, CO. 

Please feel safe in contacting me with questions or conversations.

Chris Whitacre, Pastoral Care Minister

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted August 30th, 2018

Have you ever heard of “Messy Church”?

‘Messy’ means that God is interested in people and families who are ‘messy’ rather than perfect; that Jesus spent time with outsiders, ‘sinners’ and social misfits more happily than with the orderly Pharisees, some of whom seemed to live neatly by the rule book and didn’t appear to need God.  ‘Church’ because it is church for those who belong to it.

‘Messy Church’:

reflects a God of creativity, celebration, hospitality and unconditional love.

gives opportunities for people to encounter Jesus and grow close to Jesus.

is for people of all ages, at all stages of their faith journey.

uses hands-on activities to explore Bible stories.  is an oasis of welcome and a safe space in which to thrive.

reflects a God of joy who wants people to have life in all its fullness.

usually meets once a month at a time and place best suited for those who attend.

‘Messy Church’ is NOT…….

just for children

a club

just for families

a quick fix for whatever ails the church

a drain on resources

set in stone

Messy Church USA is affiliated with the international Messy Church movement, whose home is with the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), a Christian charity based in Oxfordshire, UK. Messy Church started in an Anglican Church near Portsmouth, UK, in 2004, and has grown into an international movement, operating across a wide range of Christian denominations and traditions. It became part of The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) in 2006 with the publication of the first Messy Church book by founder Lucy Moore. For more information about how Messy Church began, go to their webpage at www.messychurch.org.uk

Internationally, ‘Messy Church’ is also known as; Die Ü-Kirche in Germany, ‘L’eglise pele-mele’ in French Canada, ‘Kirkjubrall’ in Iceland, the Welsh call it ‘Llan Llanast’, the Dutch call it, “Kliederkerk’ and the Norwegian know it as ‘Kreative Kirke’.

Pastor Kathryn

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted July 20th, 2018

Greetings Family,

Tomorrow morning 13 of us will join others on a wild adventure to Ft. Collins, Colorado for National Youth Conference. I am reminded of just how blessed I am to be a part of the great story of what God is doing in the McPherson Church of the Brethren. This whole summer has added another chapter of what God is doing, not only within our church family, but in our district and even within our larger denomination.

I was honored to spend two weeks at camp as a spiritual director and the memories of those two weeks will walk with me my entire life. Learning from the directors of both camps, I left those two sacred weeks a better person, a better father/husband, and a better pastor. Working with the counselors, I realized the future of our world is very bright and blessed. Leaning on the cooks and medical staff God opened my eyes to how we all need each other and we all have so much to give. But it was the students and the campers who enriched my life in epic and historic ways. I thank each one of them for making my life more whole. And I am thankful that you, my church family, agreed to letting me serve the district in a way that changed my life and strengthened my ministry and call.

A week and a half later, Kendra, Daniel, Reyna, and I packed up a rental vehicle and drove east as we navigated the open road on our way to Cincinnati, Ohio for Annual Conference. That experience had profound impact on all of us. Daniel and Reyna were able to spend the days with kids their age from all over the denomination and both formed relationships that they still talk about and look forward to renewing next year. Kendra had a chance to rest from her chaotic work schedule. Her soul was also enriched and blessed by joining worship with sisters and brothers from across this beautiful land. Though I went to Annual Conference a bit cynical and skeptical, I left that hallowed ground believing, maybe for the first time in a long time, that our denomination is set to make an epic difference in our world. All new business was tabled until next year. By choosing to do so, we could worship together, break bread together, and remember why we come together. This is only going to make us a stronger community of faith and I believe next year will plot the course for a brilliant future.

And now I am on the eve of another spiritually challenging and enriching experience. Again I am so thankful, blessed, and honored to serve you and be a part of a pastoral team that works together and leans on each other and challenges one another.

I share all of this not only to recap my historic summer, and it has been one that I will cherish forever, but also because I was immersed in those different moments, I felt God showing me what is needed for all of us. Perhaps I have always felt this way, and these weeks away affirmed what I have always held on to? Maybe. But I want to believe God opened my eyes and I could see, truly see, what helps make us whole. What came to me?

Community.

In each of the adventures that God has had me on this summer, what made the weeks holy was not just the worship or the teaching or the service projects. No. What made them holy, and by extension making me more whole, were the sisters and brothers on the journey with me. I realized how much I needed each person, regardless of age, next to me. It didn’t matter who they voted for or what they had on their dinner plate, what mattered was that they, and I, took the risk of being together. Around the tables, whether we were eating, doing art projects, planning the day, or talking about all things related to being human, around those tables walls crumbled. Differences disappeared. Bonds of love developed and grew stronger with each passing second. In those moments we laughed. We cried. We argued. We disagreed on many things. But as we stood up and pushed our chairs in, we realized we were closer than we had ever been because we risked sitting together and sharing.

That is what God showed me. I need more time with people. Around tables. Sharing. Laughing. Crying. Debating. Listening. Learning. Growing. So as we prepare to leave for NYC, I am planning on seeking many tables so that this summer of growth continues to nurture and mature the work God started. But more than that, I realize I have to bring this back for all of us. A new school year is upon us and I feel it is a great time to create spaces for authentic fellowship and relationships building. Will you join me at any table that is before us? Will you risk being vulnerable enough that I can learn from you and maybe I can offer you a bit of wisdom? Will you come to our tables and laugh with me? Love with me? Grow with me? I invite you all and hope to carry the spiritual awakening that begun in June with us all, from this day forward. Amen.   – Pastor Jerry

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted May 24th, 2018

I have colleagues who pastor in churches that range in size from 20 to 3,500. The concerns, struggles, excitement, projects, initiatives, failures and successes in a tiny church, a medium church, and a giant church are not dissimilar. Caregiving needs range from those who wish for traditional pastoral visits and prayer chains to those who think a ‘pastoral visit’ is ‘weird’ and keep their support group informed of their prayer concerns through their social media contacts. Modes of communication which continually and rapidly change, cause churches to put their information out in, at a minimum, five different formats. Pastoral staff find that a three year Master of Divinity degree, Ordination, skills in counseling and social work, and years of experience are also enhanced with solid knowledge and skills in Information Technology (computers, phones, graphic design). Figuring out Spiritual Growth Education opportunities is a labyrinth of what, when, how where that causes churches to feel continually unsatisfied and constantly reinvent themselves. Offering hospitality services is a bit like being a concierge who must adapt their services dependent upon the attendees of the convention currently using the facility. Deciding how to both reach ‘in’ and reach ‘out’ has churches swinging on a pendulum that never seems to find balance. Where to worship, how to worship, when to worship is a moving target that used to shift every 50 to 60 years, then every 20 to 30 years, then every 10 and now many churches introduce something new in worship every 1 to 2 years and often every six months. Because everyone knows the future of the church is someone younger than ourselves, discovering the magic mixture that will nurture, sustain and keep those younger people – is the Holy Grail. Meanwhile maintenance and overhead loom for facilities that are either under-utilized or over-utilized and the entire machine is driven by money, money, money. I talk regularly with colleagues who live and work in these realities. Rather than being discouraged, we are encouraged because we know that where two or three are gathered in God’s name – God is there. We all have amazing stories of people continuing to struggle, striving to ‘figure it out’, working toward common good – people driven and passionate because they know the only thing that makes life make any sense – is God’s Unconditional Love and Grace.

~ Pastor Kathryn

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted April 18th, 2018

Church family,

Wow! This year has flown by! It seems just like yesterday that I was getting Daniel and Reyna ready for their first day of school, trying to ease the natural anxieties that come with both theirs and mine. And now it is April 18th and May is knocking at the door, reminding me that some chapters are ending and other new exciting chapters await to be written. It has been a quite a year.

We have had a busy year at the church as well. We illuminated the sanctuary on Christmas Eve. We welcomed three new sisters into our church family through baptism. We washed each other’s feet on Maundy Thursday, tying us to our ancestors that have come before us and setting the table for those who follow. And we created a “Dream Team” with prayer that the Spirit will lead us into a new day and a new definition of what it means to “be church.”

My sense is that life, though not literally, is only going to speed up. It is not slowing down. Every chapter we end reveals a new page, a blank space that needs to be filled. Too often we begin writing without taking time to reflect on where we have come from. I hope we can change that. To that end, I challenge us to stop, every once in a while, and just look back. Look at how far we have come. We need to recognize all that has happened in our lives, both individually and collectively. More than recollect all that has happened, we also need to make room for celebration.

Ancestors to the Christian faith had moments in their liturgical calendar when they would celebrate, party, and reminisce. They would share stories of what God was doing in their live. These specific moments, throughout the year, were set a part as moments to pause and reflect and remember, so that the community would have a chance to honor all that God had done. They would rejoice, together, as one people. My sense is that we need a time to reflect and to celebrate, as a people, all that God has done. We need to press the pause button, if only for a few hours, and just be together and laugh and cry and share stories, before the clock ticks away and we miss out.

So as the end of the school year inches ever so close, let us take time to be together and reflect on the year that was. Let us take a moment to sit with one another and share stories and laugh and cry and remember that religion, at its core, was about bringing people together. And let us create intentional spaces that are about looking back, so that together we can enjoy today and embrace tomorrow.

I was hoping to share Roger and Carolyn Scrock’s story this month but that will be a highlight for next month. So, look for their story in the June newsletter. Now go make time to break bread with others and enjoy the love that flows naturally when we are together. Amen.

Pastor Jerry