Archive for ◊ May, 2011 ◊

• Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

If your church is considering the selling option, one of the sadnesses faced by your congregation is the potential loss of long established friendships. What happens to our beloved church family if the church doors close?  Finishing with Grace addresses not only the loss of a building, but the fears of not seeing our “church buddies” anymore.

It is important to remember that friendships will survive.

There is a poem called Friends for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime.  As I write this, I have purposely not read the poem because I want to put my personal spin on this interesting premise.

As we age – and look back over our lives – it’s easy to place friendships within the category of reason, season or lifetime. People that were so important to me during my high school years are mostly forgotten. Only one friend from my childhood fell into the lifetime category.  She passed away last summer – but she is still my lifetime friend.

Friends in my “early business career” and “single living in Boston” days seemed so important at the time.  There was a camaraderie then, but now we barely keep in touch.  The exception is one dear friend who has stayed close over the years and over the miles (she now lives in Washington state). She is another lifetime friend.

There have been many reason friends and season friends that  have come out of various organizations I have belonged to over the years.  I have one friend that I met while working on a committee several years back and she is now in the lifetime friend category.

I consider many in my church family to be lifetime friends.  We share a religious history (and oh so many church committee meetings!) that will always be a part of us – even if we are no longer worshipping together on a Sunday morning.  No matter where I am in my own life journey, my beloved church friends will always be there for me – as I am for them.

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• Monday, May 09th, 2011
Linda Hilliard
Co-author of Finishing With Grace: A Guide to Selling, Merging or Closing Your Church
I am going to add to the blog that Gretchen wrote last week about community – both church and the broader community.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.  As anyone who hears the cancer word knows, once a cancer diagnosis is made, the medical establishment springs into action.  The patient is pulled into a medical time warp.  From a normal life one day to facing surgery – immediately.

That happened to me – on a Thursday my cancer was confirmed and I was on the surgeon’s calendar for the following Monday.  Of course family becomes involved and is supportive.   But how do you let others know that you have cancer?

I live alone – so although my married daughters were very much there for me, that Sunday after my diagnosis, I went to church alone.  It was June and when I arrived at church that morning – the glass double doors were open.  I was touched by that sight.  Those doors are often open, but that time I felt a special sense of welcome to my religious community.

I sat with my usual gang of friends, but didn’t say anything.  During the prayer concerns, I asked for prayers for myself because of an upcoming surgery.  Those near reached out to touch me.  As soon as the service was over, I was surrounded.  I told my story and felt many warm embraces. There were offers of transportation, providing food, staying with me.

And I heard again and again: “I will pray for you.”  “Pray for you.” What an amazing statement to hear. Imagine – being in someone’s prayers!

During treatment, I continued to work as I could.  What surprised me was the number of business associates – people I barely knew – who knew of my illness and would say “I will keep you in my prayers.”  Although I go to church regularly, I’ve never been a vocal  “I’ll keep you in my prayers” kind of person.  I might privately pray for people, but as an old Yankee – I’m a bit taciturn in talking about my prayer habits.

I underwent the surgery – had chemo – had  radiation – it was nine months of the medical community and my friends – and strangers – helping me fight cancer.

I’m 10+ years cancer free now.  Of course I thank modern medicine for my survival, but I also credit both my church community – and the community of kindly associates and strangers for helping me get through a terrifying time in my life.

The other day I talked to a neighbor who was facing some surgery and I quickly said “I will pray for you.”  Funny – I’ve said those words comfortably for well over 10 years now – and I mean it every time.

To Purchase “Finishing With Grace” click here

Click here to email  Linda

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• Wednesday, May 04th, 2011

Gretchen Switzer

Co -author of Finishing With Grace: A Guide to Selling, Merging or Closing Your Church

I went to do the grocery shopping on Monday morning and all I expected was the regular stuff … lots of shoppers, a minimum of courtesy, folks in a rush, stockers blocking the aisles with their gigantic carts, and running into the occasional friend or neighbor. What I did not expect was to run into a woman whom I consider more than an acquaintance and almost a friend, and for her to  tell me that she has just been diagnosed with cancer.

As she explained the situation, I wondered in my own mind what the truly appropriate response would be.  I did not want to be over-sympathetic and set the poor woman to sobbing in the dairy aisle, but I did not want to seem cavalier about it either.  The truth is I was already quaking inside at the thought of this fortyish mother of five, ages 3 through 13,  having to face surgery and follow-up treatment with no assurance of success.  The image of myself, ten years her senior, had set up residence quickly in my head – thinking about what a cancer diagnosis for me would mean to my two school age kids.  I really did want to cry right there between the eggs and the orange juice, but I knew my crying would do little more  than cause her great embarrassment.  So, I offered calmly to take her to coffee or out for a drink or to watch the kids whenever she needs a break.  She thanked me profusely and then said something that struck a deep cord with me.  “I just don’t know what I would do without my community!  My husband, my parents, my friends, my colleagues, neighbors like you, my church — I know you all ‘have my back’ and my kids’ backs.  That’s what is getting me through this so far.”

And suddenly, (thank you, God)  I knew the right thing to say. “Remember,  we’ll all be with you the rest of the way, too!”

When we are faced with devastating news, poor health, the deep disappointments and griefs which mark our lives, there is nothing more powerful we can offer each other than the assurance of our presence and the promise to stick around even when it gets really, really tough and we might want to run away.  To remind each other that the presence of God promises never to abandon us is a gift only a community of compassion and true friendship can offer.

Whether we gather in a church or we’re standing around leaning on our carts at the grocery store, you and I often have the privilege of offering and receiving the reassurance of family and fellowship, of human presence and touch and affection and faith –  let us continue to remember the importance of  being community to one another.

To Purchase “Finishing With Grace” click here

Click here to email  Gretchen

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