A couple of weeks ago our Wednesday morning Bible Study read the story of the Apostle Paul’s return to the city of Philippi, found Book of Acts 16:9-15. One night Paul received a vision: a man from Macedonia (modern day Greece) stood over him saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Convinced God was calling him, he left with Timothy for Philippi the next morning. One Sabbath they went to a place of prayer to find folks who might be open to the good news. Outside the city’s gate by the river they sat down with a group of woman and spoke with them. There they met Lydia, a wealthy dealer of purple cloth. Because God had opened her heart she was able to hear Paul’s good news message and was baptized along with her household. It is interesting that in the verses preceding this passage Paul and Timothy had tried to visit several other cities but were “thwarted” by God. That wasn’t what God wanted them to do. Only when Paul received a vision and discerned its purpose were they able to travel on to Philippi and participate in Lydia’s conversion.
This is an important lesson for us. Through conversations and discussions at our last two congregational meetings it is clear to me the time has come for us to once again reflect upon ourselves as a church and the broader community and its needs. To this end, I believe we should begin a process of discernment designed to build and strengthen our church while figuring out how to serve God in the community. May we, like Paul, discover God’s vision for us and our purpose.
It is important our discernment process be facilitated by someone from outside our church who is experienced working with congregations like ours; and whose purpose is to help us respond to the voice of Jesus calling, “Follow me.” Such a facilitator would help create a program where all are invited and welcomed to participate fully, working to insure all voices be heard. I hope we can begin this work sometime in the fall. In the meantime we will need to do some research to find the best person and program to suit our needs. I believe such an endeavor should be recommended by the Church Council to the Congregation for our approval.
There’s no telling where this will lead us, but I have no doubt as we come to better know ourselves and our community we will be led down paths both familiar and unfamiliar. One can only speculate how this will effect our common life, our worship, Christian education, and mission? I’ve been brainstorming about this and have imagined a few possibilities. I’m sure you can come up with many more.
How might we reach and support blended families and those going through divorce? What about those caring for their parents, or adults living with their parents. How can we help families coping with chronic illness, and those struggling with addiction and those having to make end of life decisions? How might we serve youth at risk?
Martin Jean, the Director of the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale, has said you can’t really get to know someone until you begin to appreciate their music. What would it sound like if our music not only enhanced our worship, but became tools of mission and hospitality as well? Can we learn to appreciate the music of folks we don’t know but want to?
Christian disciples are not so much educated as we are formed. How would we be shaped by visiting churches around the area, in other parts of the country or the world? How might we participate in their ministries; how might they in ours? We could organize a trip to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, including youth and adults from our church and greater Woodbridge? How would such an experience shape our lives?
We are blessed with the land trust at our back door. What about “Church in the Woods?” There is a story behind every tattoo. Imagine a service of personal history and identity with the “Blessing of the Tattoos?” A service of forgiveness and the “Blessing of ex-spouses?”
Why not sponsor a film festival on the theme of hope?
I believe God wants us to live lives full of grace and love and is calling us to take the risk to go, not where we’d like to, but where God is leading us. Maybe we’ll experience a faith journey we have yet to imagine? God loves our church more than you and I. May we, like Paul, be granted the grace to hold on for the ride.
In Joyful Expectation of What God Has in Store for Us,