Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dave's Top 3 Questions for Faith Church 2010

The New Year is time to take stock of the past and look forward to the future. Here are my top 3 questions for Faith Church moving into 2010. There are only 3 but they are big questions. Three questions of discernment I feel are fundamental for Faith Church to reconnect with it's foundation of benevolence and move forward to growth in less traditional ways.

1) How do we provide the training necessary to nurture folks in their understanding of and growth in mission? Exploring what mission means. What the bible says about mission. The importance of mission to what it means to be Presbyterian. Developing a deeper personal sense of mission. Developing the tools necessary for discerning what God’s call to mission is for each of us personally and as a congregation.

2) How do we transform ourselves into a congregation that reaches out to the new generations of folks that see no need, or simply don't have the time, for a church home or anything beyond a personal spirituality? The experience of Maricarmen, the presbytery’s new minister of New Church Development, is a wonderful new resource available to us.

3) How do we engage ourselves in demonstrating Kingdom living to our local neighborhood? Recent actions by the Huntsville Housing Authority as well as community reaction to them have deepened divisions within the Huntsville community. Huntsville schools are undergoing increased growth along with shrinking budgets and significant demographic changes. How do we respond in action and partnership?

Please pray with me over these questions over the coming year. What are your questions?


Pew Time

Over this Christmas weekend I’ve racked up a lot of “pew time.” I’m not saying the amount of time one spends in a pew has any correlation to ones holiness or degree of being saved! However I’ve had the opportunity to experience several different forms of worship this weekend that have been quite enlightening and refreshing. Of course I attended Faith’s Christmas Eve service and traditional Sunday worship; unfortunately I missed our contemporary worship. I have also been attending our 12 Days of Christmas Prayer devotionals. All of these worship experiences have been wonderful, spiritual, and fulfilling! But probably the most eye opening was my attending two Catholic Masses with my brother who has been visiting this Christmas.

Now I have attended Mass with my brother before when he’s visited, but this visit included two Masses within 48 hours. You may or may not know that I grew up Catholic and had drifted away from “the Church” after I left home; until Faith Church found me. However, attending Mass twice within 48 hours along with the recent tension we’ve had at Faith over our style of worship put these visits in an entirely different light.

There was very little in the Mass in the way of word, action, or song that I could not accept or rejoice in as a fellow Christian! Oh, I had to watch myself with “trespasses” rather than “debts”, and who could argue about kneeling in the presence of the Lord? I did have to deal with some personal baggage when it came to making the “Sign of the Cross.” But that was only dealing with my personal issues from leaving the church in the first place and recognizing my trouble with that sign was a remnant of rebellion that has no place in my life anymore. I did have to deal with the fact that I was not welcome at the Communion Table along with some theological differences about exactly what Communion means. But I recognize those issues are as much theirs as they are mine and that in the Glory After that will all be cleared up. In the meantime I can be a polite guest and respect their customs. And I can tell you I experienced Communion just as much as they did!

All this just drives home to me even more what a waste it is to argue over differences in worship styles! We are called to celebrate our relationship with the Lord in worship. There are ways of celebrating that are unique to each of us. But we are also called to celebrate each other’s relationship with the Lord. As the PC(USA) Book of Order (G-4.0401) states: “Thus the fellowship of Christians as it gathers for worship and orders its corporate life will display a rich variety of form, practice, language, program, nurture, and service to suit culture and need.” We should respect each others choices and rejoice in the Lord “all ways”.

When I joined Faith I made a statement to the congregation that I had found a relationship with Jesus and that I could have gone back to reconcile myself with the Roman Catholic Church. But I also said that I felt I needed to stay at Faith where I was surrounded by the love of the people that had brought me into that relationship to continue to grow. That statement has been tested in recent years, and a couple more times in the past, but it still holds. It holds because Faith Church is bound together by the love of Christ! Faith Church, by grace, always seems to re-find that core truth; even if sometimes it takes a while longer. As long as Faith Church remembers and rests on the rock of Christ’s love it will thrive. There will surely be pieces of baggage we’ll need to deal with but I am looking forward to rebuilding upon that foundational rock in the coming year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Joy, Both a Feeling and an Action

This is my offering to Faith's "12 Days of Christmas Prayer" devotions this year...

Joy, Both a Feeling and an Action

Opening Prayer: Lord God, open our hearts and minds that we might come into greater communion with you in this time of prayer and reflection. Amen

Philippians 4:4-7 (New Revised Standard)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As Christians I think that is the feeling we feel when we talk about Joy, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” Yet that is often a feeling that eludes us. But if we read earlier in the passage we find that it requires an action on our part, to rejoice! Rejoice, the action verb of joy. We are to rejoice, revel if you will, in the fact that the Lord is near and approachable. We rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas, Emmanuel, God is with us.

From the Blog: Solitary Broomtree
“There are times when rejoicing is down right easy – when finding joy in the Lord is almost a natural response. We receive good news about the health of a loved one, and we praise the Lord. We get reacquainted with an old friend we haven’t seen in years, and we rejoice in one another’s company. Our family arrives for a visit, and we rejoice in their safe travels.
And finally, there are those times when rejoicing seems counterintuitive – almost insulting or inappropriate – like when a loved one dies. Or when they receive dire news of a terminal illness. Or when we learn that our position in the company is being eliminated, and we’ll be out of a job. Or when someone we care about is convicted of a crime and sent to jail. What is there, at times like these, to rejoice in?
Rejoicing in the Lord isn’t about finding a treasure in life’s trash heap of bad news. It’s about being joyful because of our relationship with God. It’s about giving thanks for the hope that we have in God’s love for us, proven in Jesus Christ. If all of our hope is found there, and “the peace which surpasses all understanding” emanates from Him, then we will be filled with joy in the Lord regardless of our present circumstances.”

But wait, it gets even better than that!

Zephaniah. 3:17 (New Revised Standard)
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

God rejoices in US! What more could we ask for to give us that feeling of joy?

Silent Prayer

Closing Prayer (read together):
Lord God, Abba Father, you came to be with us to share new hope in the form of a tiny baby. That baby grew up with us to lead us in your ways. And finally that baby sacrificed himself for us that we may be free to rejoice in you eternally. Halleluiah, Amen!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent 2009 – Faith and Hope!

It’s been well over a month since I posted anything to my blog. So many things have been happening at work, at home, with family, at church, and spiritually.

This year Faith Church most certainly embodies the feelings of anticipation and hope that Advent brings! With our new pastor, Pastor Tom, in place, the Fellowship Hall reopened, and folks comfortably back in two worship services, things are starting to feel more normal. There is now an excitement about the tough work the Lord has ahead for us to complete our healing and discern our call for moving forward! I have seen so many parallels between Faith’s journey and the journey of God’s people in the bible this last year. The up and down relationship with God, the feelings of exile, and now the sense of something new coming just as those that were graced with the awareness that the birth of the little Christ child signaled a momentous new beginning revealed in such a humble setting. (No Tom, I do not think you are the second coming, but your arriving here in record time is surely a God thing. :-)

Spiritually my biggest event is that I decided to heed the call to become an Elder. I wrote about that struggle back in August (8/7, 8/12). Wow, that long ago? Faith responded by electing me! Training has been abbreviated this year but the North Alabama Presbytery training day was fantastic! Houston discussed the PC(USA) Book of Confessions and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Rosemary rap about the Book of Order! Rosemary also shared some of the actual beauty of the Book of Order infused in the first 4 chapters; a beauty that I recognized when I read it during my discernment (9/6). We also had a short talk from Maricarmen the presbytery’s new minister of New Church Development. I believe we all have a great deal to learn from Maricarmen about church transformation! We also had some training at Faith with Pastor Tom. It is going to be a joy to work with him as well as the other elders and deacons!

My other spiritual adventure has been launching the Faith Reach website. Faith Church started with a call to mission and that call is as steadfast as God’s love. We are called to reach out to those outside our walls as well as within. Faith has been active in many ministries yet it has always been hard to keep track of them without having to hunt down Frank. I felt the call to offer my time to set up Faith Reach as a place where information on those ministries can be easily found. It is intended to be a place of information, encouragement, and education in mission. The Faith Reach website has also recently led to starting a Faith Facebook fan page! Establishing this website and researching its ministries has shown me the vast array of outreach and mission opportunities available! The next logical step is to find an avenue to provide the training necessary to nurture folks in their understanding of and growth in mission. That is something I am looking forward to working on with Tom, Frank, and Philip over the next year!

May we all be enveloped in the warm glow of hope over this Christmas season and prepare ourselves for the work God would have us do in the coming year! And to start us out right please consider attending the 12 days of Christmas Prayer series starting Christmas Day!