Wednesday, November 19, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Prayer?

It’s a week before Thanksgiving and Christmas is just coming on my radar screen. Thanksgiving too for that matter! We all know and have experienced the trials and tribulations of “getting in the spirit” so I won’t bore you with more of the same. Except that this year will be worse for me given I have a big project at work due December 16th.

I’ve always wanted to get more in tune with the true Spirit and take Advent more seriously. It always escapes my grasp. In recent years I’ve regularly joked that I should celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 6th. I’m a Fed and December is the time to use up your “use-or-lose” vacation time, so I usually get to take at least the Christmas week off. It’s only then, after Christmas Day itself, when I get to separate myself from the hubbub and reflect on the amazing gift of the birth of our Savior. Many others face the same situation, or worse, many face the sometimes severe post holiday blues during this time.

I just had a thought that may be good for both Faith Church and me? What do you think about having a community prayer session each day during the “12 Days of Christmas” (12/25-1/6)? I’m thinking each day could focus on a different aspect of our life in Christ at Faith. Yeah, it may end up only being 11 or 10, but this should be simple and there shouldn’t be much prep except the outline and getting a daily volunteer to provide a short devotional to set the tone each day; something in the nature of a bible verse, or a musical choice, or a centering prayer; even the anniversary slide show. Given Faith’s year and looking forward to the next, this seems like a good idea?

A short community prayer time during this period to separate ourselves from the crush of the world and focus on the Kingdom would be a welcome relief. What do you think?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Faith and the Emerging Culture

Sarah Curtis asked me to give you a five minute talk to encourage you to read the Emerging Culture report that was given to Session in early September. I was thinking wow, five minutes! There is so much in that report what can I say? Then I decided I needed to tell you a story…

26 or so years ago was when I first came to Huntsville and Faith church. Now if you think I’m introverted now, you should have seen me then! I grew up Catholic and had moved away from church when I left home for college. I was not looking for a church home when I came to Huntsville. But through a friend of mine who came to Huntsville too and worked for Norm Schlemmer, I was introduced to the Faith singles group.

They were a great group of people and did a lot of interesting things. In particular were Maranatha retreats. I loved Maranatha, but I had a real problem with the worship service. I usually found some place else to go during worship. Everybody was OK with that and still accepted me and didn’t push me. They did what Faith does. They welcomed me for who I was and loved me as the child of God that I was, but didn’t know yet. The rest is history as they say.

Well, my story is the emerging culture story. Faith’s story is the emerging culture story! The emerging culture story is not about multi-media, and using the worship service as a marketing tool! It’s about connecting with people, all people, and loving them as the children of God that they may not know they are and ushering them into a life with Christ on God’s timetable.

The report is available on Faith’s website.
Thank you.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

WHES, Next Steps?

With the successful initiation of a partnership with West Huntsville Elementary School (WHES) on our anniversary weekend, the question falls to what’s next? For sure, Libba Nicholson our coordinator is working with WHES on some of the things identified during the weekend and planning some follow on activities.

Two analogies come to my mind when thinking about the longer term possibilities. The first is emerging from a mountain pass and seeing a new frontier overflowing with possibilities. The other is like a kid walking into an immense candy store…with only a dollar in his/her pocket!

With the candy store being the wealth of choices and Libba being the single dollar, we’re not going to be able to buy much candy! (Although Libba is more like a 10 dollar bill!) Libba, by herself, cannot coordinate and guide the effort. The question is how do we organize to approach this missional opportunity? The first Presbyterian answer is to form a committee. Let’s not go there! There are good and bad committees but this brings to my mind a business like approach simply determining tasks and finding bodies to fill them. But if we are called to a missional approach, we are being called to build relationships.

Both the emerging culture study and Faith’s own “A Covenant for Shaping Our Future” indicate a community based team approach is what’s called for*. This type of team approach promotes building community with others through bible study and work while trying to discern what that work is called to be. I believe such a team of WHES volunteers is what’s called for to steer the WHES efforts, support those in the ministry, and usher new folks into the ministry. (Love, Grow, Gather, Send)

But wait!

We are supposed to be partnering and building relationships with WHES; faculty, students, and parents. How do we include them, or perhaps more appropriately include ourselves in what they are doing? Can we merge with existing team efforts thorough some of WHES’s other church partners? What other possibilities are out there if we can get past just getting the job done? What will we learn about ourselves? What will we learn about those we want to serve? It’s about the journey with Christ on the way.

This is a new frontier. Libba and Frank are our lead scouts. But if we are truly called to this effort it is an effort that requires a community of disciples. I for one do not have the guts or gifts to commit to such an effort alone!

* See the Emerging Culture Report, particularly Appendix V.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Coming Together

“Wow, what a glorious sound.” Director of Music Bill Hovik hit the nail on the head regarding last Sunday’s anniversary combined worship service! As an usher I would also say it was good to see the sanctuary full (mostly full), and to hear the volume raised! That brings me to a topic that is mostly shrouded in rumor and yet rattles the very foundations of Faith church; “one worship service”.

First the facts as I know them. As of August, at least, there were no official plans to move to a single worship service. I checked with the head of the Worship Committee on that at the time because I had heard those rumors as well. They were tasked with finding a comfortable mix, or equally uncomfortable mix, for Faith’s typical combined services. Those services are only the usual fifth Sunday and special holiday services.

The second fact is that the Emerging Culture class was not offered simply to prepare the congregation for the move to a single multi-media worship service. It was a Spirit led class meant to explore the world that Faith is immersed in and to inform the further mission of Faith Church. In fact the Emerging Culture Report found that this is a contentious subject and a major motive for changing the service is generally to entice new folks to attend Faith. The report also suggested that this motive is not what God intended or Jesus demonstrated and we need “to approach worship as personal and corporate responses to God of those present, not anticipate newcomer’s responses.”

Now that is not to say there aren’t a lot of folks that think we should go to a single service. But there are also a lot of folks that think we shouldn’t. The problem is we don’t really know the desires for sure because we can’t talk about it given it is such an emotionally charged topic! I personally am in favor of tabling that discussion to a later date. We are not in a healthy enough state to discuss it and the threat is fueling fears and mistrust on both sides. I think we should declare a cease fire. Instead, we should focus on missional aspects of our church life. Aspects about which there is strong support and agreement for at Faith. It was offered in the report that this was the intended avenue for bringing new folks into the church; not just Faith but the Christian Church as a whole.

Now as our missional approach starts attracting new members, or regular attenders, we will have to revisit how we do worship at some point. I encourage all of us to be carefully considering our motives for changing or not changing our worship formats. Are the reasons God’s reasons or our own? What are the aspects of worship that really allow you to connect with God and give him praise? Are you willing to support alternative formats or times because they help others connect? Not nameless potential visitors but fellow Christians with whom we are working at Faith to forward God’s Kingdom. Stop worrying about winning or losing and search your hearts in prayer to find what your response to God is in worship. When we have done that we can come together as a community in Christ and determine our worship landscape!