Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ponderings for a New Year

Each morning I wake wondering how I can be the person expected to build a church. I presume my dreams focus on this as well and my spiritual director has heard my laments and worries. A Christmas gift of lasting value would be feelings of "settledness" in this community. On the positive side, I have name recognition, face recognition, recognition of my values - and most people respect this church planting I am doing here in north central Penna.

Not everyone wants to hear about a new church - many of those who live here are conservative and my church is decidely NOT conservative - but most are polite. There is, however certain interest from those who are alienated from traditional religion. Here is a bit of what I am doing for the new church (called SoulLinkGathering - or officially Soul Link
United Church of Christ) this month:
* discussion on individual spiritual paths at a local restaurant - a Wednesday, early evening, I buy the first round;
* nontraditional worship service and meal (Agape Meal - I experienced it at an Episcopal Church in Denver), a Saturday evening;
* DVD watching ("God on Trial") with discussion following at my house, a Sunday afternoon;
* I preach weekly to a small - but now reinvigorated - congregation. In this 175 year old congregation-with-a-will-to-live, we have a gay couple who has been attending for several months, a few former members who had left but are coming back to try me out, and last Sunday, two moms with their bright daughter.

I started seminary in my late-middle age and finally this morning, it occurred to me that building this church may be why I went to seminary. Some people need extra input to learn a lesson, must be that I do too. Not everyone wants to come to a beautiful community to battle elements (natural and man made) to start something new. But, during my time here, I sense a hunger among those who have not have a place to express their spirituality. The worship opportunities in this progressive church address that hunger.

Regardless of whether I am the person who is really a church-builder, I am the person who is here to do just that. To help, I am slowly reading Acts and the Pauline Letters to really learn what Paul, the first church planter, did. What I know thus far: he wrote (blogging is writing) and followed up (blogging on a regular basis is follow-up) and checked back and invited people and held services. All things I do. It worked for him.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Three came!

One of the things I have known about blogs and websites and instant communications is that you have to DO IT. That is, you have to write this week and write next week and the week after. I am terrible about that type of “doing.” To counteract my propensity to avoid writing I have an “every Monday list” of things that I must do – blog is on that list.

NEW CHURCH START update: Two weekends ago, SoulLinkGathering had it’s first get together. Three people came. There are ways I could phrase this – “only” three people came, THREE people came!, three people came and left. I choose THREE people came – and three left saying they would bring others to future gatherings. That is awesome, because it means that three more people now share the vision of what can happen with this fledgling faith community. Three more people are aware that there is a need for a liberal, nontraditional gathering in our area of Pennsylvania. These three people will multiply into three more and three more and …

Looking at this, I see that I am a glass half-full person and I choose positive outcomes as my frame of reference. You who read this can let me know, over the week to week to week times, whether I retain my positive outlook. New Church Plant training tells us this work has the greatest highs and the greatest lows. Each will be part of this musing – as an optimist, you may expect more highs.