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

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted March 21st, 2018

Paradoxes can be found in many experiences within our lives and in the world. Recently, I read a book by Barbara Brown Taylor entitled, Learning to Walk in the Dark, HarperCollins Publishers, 2015. She writes, “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light…”. She strives to avoid making a value judgement regarding the worth of light over dark; often that light is good and dark is evil. Taylor relates there is much that can be learned from the dark and darkness. She explores how darkness can be meaningful and helpful from a wellness and spiritual perspective. Light and dark can be a paradox in and of themselves. We need both to understand the other; “Light is known to exist by virtue of darkness. One is the chair upon which the other sits.” Anonymous, Understanding Your Grief, Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., Companion Press, Ft. Collins, CO.

To know light we must embrace darkness. To know love we must understand hate. To know joy, we must embrace sadness. Grief and mourning are like that as well. To have something/someone we must appreciate what it is to lose something/someone. We encounter love, joy, sadness and loss in our lives. Some losses carry a greater significance for us than others. The loss of a loved one can immerse us into a deep emotional and spiritual darkness only because we have connected so richly in the light of love and relationship.

I wonder, in this season of Lent approaching Holy Week, what the variety of paradoxes Jesus’ disciples experienced? Perhaps desire and denial; love and guilt; loss and elation; amazement and disbelief were only some of what they could have experienced. Scripture names paradoxes as well. We must lose life to gain it; the last shall be first; poor economically but rich in spirit; love for enemies; turn the other cheek to name just a few.

Merriam-Webster defines paradox this way: 1 : a tenet contrary to received opinion. 2 a : a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true. b : a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true.

May we embrace and pay attention in life and faith to the paradoxes that surround us – they are many. Sometimes healing and truth can be found in the ridiculous and the contradictory.

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” Isaiah 45: 3

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. Mark Twain

Every human being is a mixture of light and darkness, trust and fear, love and hate. Jean Vanier

Peace and grace,

Chris Whitacre, Pastoral Care Pastor


Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted February 22nd, 2018

Dear Family,

As I sit in my office today, I can hear the loud clangs of my two kids playing in the classroom next to me and I am reminded why I love snow days. My two kids have played so well together this morning and this is an anomaly. This isn’t normal. This isn’t what I expected, and yet, they are. They have defended each other. They have made each other laugh. They have skated on the ice rink that used to be the sidewalk. And they showed me that two persons who normally wouldn’t associate with one another can become the closest friends.

These are the moments that inspire me and help me dream of what could be. Why did my kids come together to play so nice? They wanted to come to work with me instead of going to a babysitter. They had a common goal. A shared purpose. A vision of what needed to be done, and they achieved it. Beautifully.

If my two kids, ages 9 and 7, can figure this out, then we should have no problems as adults to discern the better way. Right? I mean, my two kids fight more than I want to admit. They love to injure each other. They try to get each other in trouble. (Side note, as I let you all peek into our world, I hope and pray our family is not unique). Anyway, if my two kids can find a way to get along to accomplish a common goal, surely our world full of educated, professional, and intelligent adults can do the same.

I sit with these questions and thoughts as we move along in our Lenten journey. The Lenten Theme is “Divine Fusion: Holy Spirit meets/dances with Human Spirit.” I love the possibilities that our theme produces. These images of the Creator and created dancing together as we co-create a world that honors God, makes the world better for everyone. But even as I daydream of what could be, I make the mistake of turning on my television or clicking on a link and am brought back to reality. Our world is not as it should be.

Instead of dancing together, recreating a world where our schools are refuges and places of learning and growing, we have made them into mini warzones. Instead of highlighting students raising their voices to be heard, I hear adults chastising the students, accusing these students of being puppets for some agenda, and my heart breaks. These teenagers, who believe in the American dream, speak up and challenge their elected officials to do something, anything, as we tell them too. Instead of adults applauding the students’ courage, some adults mock them. Some adults hurl false accusations at them. And my heart breaks.

It is time for change. It is time for us to take the Divine hand and dance to make our world safer and holier. Not just for today but also for tomorrow. Not just so we can fill the pews on Sunday but also that future generations can still believe in the church as a place of refuge, a place to take the hand of God and dance. But that is not as it is today. I am not suggesting that we, as members of the McPherson Church of the Brethren, are guilty of hurling insults at these amazing teens but our world is. I am saying that as adults, we need to protect and empower our students. It is not about them inheriting the future. It is about their role in our world today. Now.

My kids showed me it can happen and we can also come together and attain a common goal. I see no greater goal/purpose than giving our young people space to speak. A place for them to answer their own call to make the world better. A chance to stand with our young people as they march, as they preach, as they pray, as they sing, as they mourn. When we do, I believe we will see God moving in amazing and holy ways. Young people are going to change the world and we can stand with them and be a part of this epic moment. Or we can be stuck on the sidelines, wishing we had their courage. If we want to see God’s spirit infused with the human spirit, it starts by standing together. It starts by preaching together. Marching together and loving each other. Holding one another’s hand and moving forward with a common purpose. So will you join me in standing with our young people as they demand safer schools? Will you stand with our students as they put themselves out there, risking it all, to demand change? If we do, we will see God moving in miraculous ways.  Amen.

— Jerry Bowen

Musings from Ministry Team Members

Posted January 25th, 2018

There is a new movie being released on February 23rd, 2018. “Every Day” by David Levithan, is based on the Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy/Romance book by the same name. One of the two central characters, Rhiannon, is a 16-year old girl who falls in love with a mysterious soul named “A” who inhabits a different body every day. Rhiannon and “A” work each day to find each other, not knowing what or who the next day will bring. The movie deals with the hard realities of loving someone who is a different person every 24 hours. On any given day, the character “A” will wake up to be White, Asian, Black, Male, Female, thin, chubby, or physically challenged. At one point in the film, “A” says, “I’m never the same … twice, [but] never very far from the last [person I was]. I try to live that day for that person. …. I know what makes each person different and what makes everyone the same. .… The only way to keep going, is to see every person as a possibility.” Although this book/movie is fiction, it carries overtones of spirituality. Jesus, embodying the Spirit of God, encountered every person and situation, every day, with a heart open to the possibilities. As we enter the month of February and the commercial holiday of Valentine’s Day looms, I am reminded by the Good Beginnings Preschool children in our midst, how exciting it is to express love to one another. Not only are they preparing to share love with Valentine’s cards but each day they unabashedly welcome one another with open arms and unbridled enthusiasm and exit the building with greetings of great joy for whoever is awaiting them. How helpful it would be if the world could take to heart the lessons of a book, a preschooler and Jesus. How hopeful we might all be if we could love without bias, prejudice, judgement or hesitation – if it mattered not – the gender, size, shape, ethnicity or abilities of the one we loved. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God and we all have possibility. May we love as God loves!    — Pastor Kathryn