GOD SHOWS UP, INSIDE & OUT
“God is in all things” -Ignatius of Loyola
This June marks a milestone for me. I’ve served as one of your pastors here at Central Church for a full decade. And while I’ve no interest in using this column to reminisce on the past, I do want to name a few places where I lately notice that God in all things around here; hints that God’s liberating ways can be found in the inside and outside of our building.
First I want to say – I spend a lot of time in our building. As you know, it’s a great space – very lived-in and prayed-over, full of music and chatter most days. Our doors are continually swinging open and our carpet shows wear, which are always good signs for a church. But I also delight in the quietness of the sanctuary some days when it’s empty and afternoon sunlight shafts mark the floor, or when Tom is practicing on the organ and I slip into the back pew to center myself. Such moments ready me for all the streams of life that pass through here. It’s a time when I pray for all who will sit in those pews to worship, or to hold congregational meetings as we find our way forward in welcoming all.
Our building continues to spill over with ongoing life of growth groups, recovery groups, exercise groups, prayer groups, art groups, Wednesday lecture groups where we learn to be inclusive, weddings, funerals, concerts, meals and more meals. Did you know that our average attendance for Wonderful Wednesday groups this current semester has been 35, involving 233 distinct persons present! Yes, great things happen in our building, which is both beloved, and aging, and in need of some large repairs / enhancements coming up. In fact, very soon we’ll be hearing from our Trustees Team for a campaign to replace our broken and obsolete boilers, and so ensure that we have heat come next fall. Stay tuned.
We are a church that meets on the inside, but that’s only half of the story.
I like the image of our building being a “filling station” of sorts. We come to be filled with good things from God’s Spirit, then we leave the sanctuary to serve and be a witness to the new things God is doing in the world. New to our “doing the faith” outside the building these days is the monthly servanthood opportunity we call Serve Saturdays. This is quite exciting. Look at these numbers reported by Ginna Becket who leads our Community Engagement Team –
“112 served on Super SS, ranging in age from 2 years and up. Our youngest representatives, 22 workers under the age of 17, moved and spread mulch, cleaned horse stall flooring, and raked a campground. In our first 3 months, we have served 12 different non-profits in some very unique ways. We have delivered 25 plates of cookies to our “business” neighbors to say thank you for being a good neighbor. And, we have provided some cleaning and yard work assistance to a few of CUMC’s homebound members. My favorite number, 156 different people have participated at least once in 3 months.”
Dianne Morrison tells about when her father, Donn Doten served as Central’s pastor back a few decades ago. When asked by the bishop to come here, he would agree to be appointed only if the church building would be open to the community every day, and not just on Sundays as it had during a time of dwindling programming. The people agreed to make a stretch. Aren’t we all glad for that! And it is no different now for us. The stretching we do now as a church – to welcome others in who’ve not been a part of us, plus engage our community as a church-outside-our-walls, building bridges through acts of servanthood – this will be the great gift to those who follow us.
As I begin a new year in ministry with you, I am excited to be here, to be stretched with you, in ways we are in mission. And despite the impending changes coming to our UMC denomination, I am confident – inside and out – that Central Church will thrive in our risk-taking mission and service, in how we serve community and world.
Together in Christ, Reaching Beyond our Doors,