Sunday, January 8, 2017

Adventures - January 2017 from "The Quincy Quill"

I don't know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don't worry o'er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I'll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand (Words: Ira Stanphill, 1950)

Happy New Year!! 

Each time a new year rolls around, I keep asking myself how the previous year went by so fast and once again find myself asking how 2016 went by so fast.  Seems like it gets faster and faster each year we get older, right?  Ira Stanhill’s poem/song above captures the moment each time we begin a new year and his words ring even more true as we begin 2017.  2016 is now complete and once again, we have before us a fresh canvas, clean slate, unworked soil, before us or whatever name or analogy you have for new beginnings.  A new year really is a new beginning and while we don’t always know what tomorrow is going to bring, we do know that we have this all-knowing and all-loving God who walks with us and holds our hand.  We also have this awesome gift of grace from God that was always there and is available to us all the time when we accept that grace (John Wesley calls this prevenient and justifying grace).  A new year is a fresh start, but also when the work of Christmas really begins and a chance to say yes again to God’s grace and share about that grace with others.  We may not know what tomorrow holds, but I know and believe that God is present in all of it, even in moments when it may not feel like it.  Yet, our blank canvas awaits, seeing what stroke of the paintbrush we will make and what kind of portrait we will paint for 2017. 

I will say that while 2016 had its ups and downs, just like life, the biggest highlight for me next to receiving my Master of Divinity in May was receiving the phone call on April 1 from Bridges District Superintendent Rev. Schuyler Rhodes telling me I had an appointment, then receiving another phone call from our Great Northern District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Dave Samelson asking me if I would serve here in Quincy.  Indeed, I responded with a resounding YES, as Quincy was on my radar when I was thinking about churches I would love to serve in our conference!!  God really does work in mysterious ways!!  I could not have asked for a better place to be sent to serve and can’t believe that we are already halfway through our first year in ministry together. 

While we have already accomplished some wonderful things, I’m still learning a lot along the way and yes, I will still make mistakes here and there and fail to follow through at times, but I am deeply grateful for the grace that you continue to show me when I do fall short and am grateful for all that you have taught me and will continue to teach me this next year.  But I also look forward to collaborating and praying together as we discern the work that God calls the church to do in our community and world throughout this year.  You have made my transition from seminary student to pastor smooth and I look forward to our work together in 2017.  I also look forward to working with the Great Northern District Committee on Ordained Ministry this year as I continue the journey towards ordained ministry and am hoping to be commissioned as a Provisional Elder at Annual Conference in June in Burlingame. 

As part of that collaborative spirit, one of my goals for 2017 is to visit with each of you in the congregation as a family unit or individual throughout this next year.  The neighborhood gatherings that the Staff-Parish Relations Committee put together this ast summer helped me to get to know the different neighborhoods and each of you who live in Quincy and East Quincy, but now I want to break those gatherings down further and hear your stories, listen to your hopes and dreams, and hear about how God works in your life.  It’s very much like the way John Wesley would check-in with people and ask “how is it with your soul?” I may call or e-mail at random and set up a day/time to get together, but I also invite you to take the initiative as well, and call or e-mail me to set up a good day/time to get together.  I could visit at your house, in my office, or over lunch or dinner at one of our local eateries or coffee shops.    

And like the resolutions each of us might individually make each new year, a new year is always a great opportunity to set goals as a congregation.  Our mission here at Community UMC is as follows: “We are a Christ-centered community, joyfully committed to being His ambassadors.  In the fellowship of His love and grace, we grow in Christ through the study of God’s word, prayer and worship; living out our faith in service to others.” As participants of the church, the general expectation is that we participate through our prayers, presence, gifts, and witness, so what are your goals to grow in Christ through study?  Prayer and Worship?  Living out service to others?  And what part will you play in being the hands and feet of Christ in our world today?

As a congregation, I feel like we already have a great level of engagement and excellence in worship.  Our worship committee meets quarterly to evaluate our worship, brainstorm ideas, and discuss logistics while Alice, Charlotte, and I meet monthly to plan the music.  We have an excellent and growing choir, bell choir, and people with artistic and musical talent in this church.  Worship and music is where some of our strongest ministry is at, along with the growing presence and engagement with small groups, and a vital ministry in the community supper.  As a result of the successful Christmas pageant, we also have the seeds planted for a weekly children’s program, but need volunteers to help out.  Is God calling you?  I would also like to engage with our teenagers and young adults, but also need help.  Is God calling you?   However, one huge goal that we have for this year is to reach out to the families in our neighborhood and community. 

How do we make it happen?  I believe the first step is invitation and building relationships.  Who do you know in your neighborhood or workplace and have you invited them to come to church before?  The challenge we have today is that there are people who do not hold the church in very high regard (church universal, not any one denomination), research that has been done by reliable sources such as the Barna Group and Pew Research Center.  One group we see a sharp rise in are “nones,” or people who do not affiliate with any religion.  While many lament this fact, I do not see it that way, as I see it more as a way of building relationships and an opportunity.  It does not mean that those who identify as “none” are non-believers, but it does mean for us that we have a story to share and an opportunity to engage.  Unfortunately, many have come to associate the church (universal) with being judgmental, hypocritical, anti-science, anti-intellectual, etc..  In other words, many have come to associate the church universal for what it is against rather than what it is for.  Thankfully in my five months here at Community UMC, I have not seen any of these attitudes in the open and THAT is the story we need to share about God and our church, especially what we are for.

As a theologically diverse congregation, we exemplify John Wesley’s notion that “although we may not think alike, we can still love alike,” a huge strength we have here at Community UMC.  When we engage with people and build meaningful and authentic relationships, even over time, we need to share the story about God’s love and grace, but also share the story about this VITAL, AUTHENTIC, and LOVING community of faith here at Community UMC that people might find intriguing and want to check out.  The old model of reaching out was about building programs, overhauling the worship service, and other things to make church more attractive and entice people to come, but that model doesn’t really work today.  We need to go out the same way Jesus sent the disciples out.  It comes down to each of us building relationships with others, and sharing our story and sharing the old, old story of Jesus and his love.  During the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, I will be preaching a series called “The Great Invitation” and hope you will join us and invite others too!! 

As we enter 2017 and this fresh canvas of possibilities, I invite and encourage you to make it a resolution to invite someone to church.  Personal invitations are much more effective than glitz and glamor, as it’s all about being ourselves and being authentic (just as I strive to do, both from the pulpit, on social media, and in everyday life).  I also invite you to brainstorm ideas and collaborate with the leaders of our church and myself in seeing some of these goals and dreams become reality.  I look forward to hearing your stories, hopes, and dreams this coming year as we continue along this journey together. 

Peace & Blessings,

Pastor Andrew

No comments:

Post a Comment

"God's Sheep Are We" - Sermon, May 12, 2019

Community UMC, Quincy “God’s Sheep Are We” Rev. Andrew Davis May 12, 2019 Psalm 23 John 10: 22-30 Jesus as the Good Shepherd ...