Archive for ◊ January, 2013 ◊

• Monday, January 28th, 2013

The Church at Its Best

When is a church at its best?

Is it when we are gathered in worship on Sunday morning and we sing and pray together as the candles flicker and the organ booms? Is it when we collect mittens and hats and warm socks for a few Sundays in the fall and gift them to the poor for the winter? Some would say the church is at its best when it is social and amiable and fun. Others would claim that a terrific preacher makes us the best congregation in town.

 All of these answers are correct, I think, depending on what feeds your particular soul. However, I have recently been reminded in an unforgettable way that, for me, the church is at its best when it is acting in compassion, when we are praying for and pulling for each other as if our own lives depend upon it. Because they do.

 Just before Christmas, my son was taken ill unexpectedly. My husband and I had no idea how things were going to turn out. Neither one of us had never been so scared or prayed so earnestly in our lives. The speed and fervency with which our pastor and congregation responded to our situation was phenomenal. The feeling of prayer and support was palpable. I could literally “feel” the wonderful energy and heartfelt hopes for strength and healing that were being sent our way, and I am here to tell you that in all the churches of which I have been a part over the last 30 years, I have never had one that was so faithful and so consistent in their prayer life. The support we felt has kept us afloat when the worry threatened to undo us. We had emails everyday – not from people asking questions or giving advice, but just notes letting us know we were being held in prayer. My favorite went something like this. “Don’t know the specifics of what your son and your family are going through, but I want you to know I have just prayed for him as I have been every morning since I heard you needed prayer. May God grant you peace…” Such a simple message, a kind word. No concern to know the personal details of a very personal situation, but just sincere compassion and a wish for us to know we were held in her heart.

We received dozens of emails like that when the church first learned of our son’s illness, but even now that he is out of the hospital and back at school, and and weeks have passed,  I still receive calls or emails nearly everyday assuring us that we are held in prayer and we are not alone.

I can assure you that for an individual or a family in crisis, what we have been offered by our beloved congregation is utterly and completely THE CHURCH AT ITS VERY BEST! 

• Tuesday, January 08th, 2013

I went to the gym the other day and was amazed at the volume of people there. Usually when I go about mid morning, there’s a handful of us. This time, every piece of equipment was in use. Of course it’s a New Year and everyone is making resolutions – whether to lose a few pounds or work out more regularly.
It crossed my mind that there are so many other resolutions categories that could be considered. In fact, let’s narrow it down a bit. What about a few resolutions about your church? Here’s my mini resolution list – in no particular order – about being the member of a church community.

1. I will try and be a more faithful attendee at church (okay, I admit it, I miss some Sundays).

2. I resolve to listen more to what others have to say. As an “old timer” (yes, I admit it), it’s easy to interject my views based on the way “we’ve always done it.” Instead, I want to hear other’s views, which may well be newer and better approaches to church issues.

3. When a plea comes out for someone to work on a church project, I will more carefully consider volunteering before I answer. This one needs to be explained. In the past, I would say “yes” to everything from making the Sunday morning fellowship coffee to heading the Stewardship campaign. I now believe it’s important to share tasks. Honestly, if one or two people do it all, it’s not a true fellowship church. It’s important to step back from some projects so that others can step up.

4. When the request comes out for Sunday School teachers and aides, I’ll step up. No, I’m not a teacher, but I will happily be an aide.

5. I want to be a more faithful visitor to the church’s shut-ins. I have a home bound person that I visit, but not regularly enough. I want to do better.

6. I want to truly hear the sermon each Sunday – think about it – carry home the message. All to often in the past, while the pastor gives the sermon, I will be thinking about who I need to talk to after the service.

7. I would like to think outside of the box about my church. If my church is in transition, facing some sort of dilemma – or simply wants to be more innovative, I want to contribute to that conversation based on a broader view.

8. I want to better appreciate the challenges faced by my church’s leaders and do a better job of embracing what – for them – are often difficult choices.

9. I want to be a hugger (even if symbolically). We used to have a woman at church who could be counted on to always embrace people with warmth and friendship. Within the confines of being an old taciturn Yankee, I want to demonstrate to people (even with words if not hugs) that I am pleased to see them.

10. I want God in my life every day of the week, not just Sundays.

And an extra

I want to more fully understand the broader needs of the world – from helping to save the environment to fighting against injustices.