Part of being the leader of the church (or a business or
institution) is creating a picture, purpose or vision for that
community - a reason for being. The vision that has become clearer
and clearer to me for our church is this: We are here to bring
people into closer relationship to Christ/God. Specifically, people
who have never been to church, who don't like church, or who were
burned by church or are not finding a comfortable and safe church
environment and are searching. So that means we are going to
attract, if the vision is clear, people who do not go to church
well. By that I mean we are not going to immediately attract
regular church goers who have clear understanding of giving and
tithing and being at church each and every Sunday. This does not
make them bad people. It makes them people who are new to the
institution of church. Will Healy, in his Day of Feasting
presentation calls these folk: "de-churched." Now the thing about
this church that I pray for is that we do not create an us and
We are, everyone agrees, a welcoming church. That will continue. Our services may look different but we are reaching out to a group that meets God differently. Also we do lots of community activities especially at this time of year (Sept-December). All of this is to get the message of Christ out to people who need to hear it.
We may not even know the fruit of all that we do because some of it happens through cable. The other day I am at an area business and the woman says to me, "My family watches your church every week! We love the message." We are reaching people!
That is the vision. Yes, we want to grow, of course, because that would be a clear sign that our message was being heard and it would bring us joy. And we will grow. But our vision is not to grow (that is too self-centered); our vision is to bring people into a safe place where they can think about having a relationship with God and the church.
So the answer to "why are we here" is to bring people into a relationship with God/Christ.
Worship is a hot topic amongst those who are invested in it. And
what type of music is probably the hottest part of that topic. What
I am finding is that we all have a vision what church means and a
lot of that is squarely focused on what happens on Sunday
Since I came here a great many things on Sunday morning have changed. Let's see if I can pinpoint the earliest changes. First, I am not a man. I had forgotten that until recently. But that is a real difference for this church, a female up in the pulpit on a regular basis. Though I do understand that Norma Bickel did help out quite a bit starting the service on some occasions in the past.
Second, youth helping in the service. Now this ebbs and flows. Now with some of our youth in college, some working on Sunday morning and the youth helping in the nursery, this has not been happening as often. But it used to be that the youth lit the candles and handled the offering. That was different.
Children in church (sometimes in the pulpit). We did not have youth chat when I first came and now we do. We also hear our babies in church and that is different, but welcome. Now I agree having my children in the pulpit is a bit of an unruly distraction. Please know that Tom and I would welcome any gentle snatching of our wayward youth on their way up to pulpit. I remember getting hauled around by loving hands in church that did not belong to my parents. And I gained great respect for those women and men who cared for me in church (after I bit them. Just kidding - and good luck).
Now these changes have all sorta been incorporated into our way of being. But you see how new they were at first and how normal they seem now?
We have hired a gifted woman who can choose, play and lead us in
song. Before this we had a variety of organ and piano players and
no one to choose music except me (and for a short time, our intern
Betsy Lehman). I did not choose well, and we suffered often. We did
for a time have a woman from St.Olaf to lead us in singing and that
was a gift from God. But her leadership was random due to school
Now we have three things: consistency in musical leadership, theological integrity between the songs and the word; and a woman of faith who feels called to lead this church to a place where they can meet God and Christ through music.
Now the style of music is different. It is a change that we feel. But let us go back to our vision: to bring people who do not have a relationship with the Church and with God to a place where this will happen. To make things safe, these people desire three things: consistency, theological integrity and leaders of faith. Now we can provide this and we will.
New music so long as it lifts the soul of newcomers it worth it. That does not mean we don't ever hear the organ or that we never sing old favorites. We can do that and we will fill Holly's leaves with "Organ Sundays" and we often sing hymns on Sunday mornings. This is called blended worship and in this time of transition it is what will work for us.
We played with the opening of the service. We have most recently asked Dr. Frank Cerny to play the organ for us as a prelude, to begin our worship and also to play our offertory. This way there is still the feel of the traditions some of us have come to love alongside the newer music during the congregational singing. We have made our call to worship musical instead of spoken. We sing together the same opening song each time, "Step by Step" for me, it is a way to remind myself that we are seeking God in worship, not just our own needs. Then we have added a practice the youth group discovered in the New York Moravian Churches: reading the Psalm to each other. This allows persons to hold the Bible in their hands and read in community from God's Word. One person told me that is the first time they had had the Bible in their hands for 30 years. A wonderful change. Finally at the end of the service we sing our postlude, the same one each Sunday, "Trees of the Field" it is our going out song. And Holly has instructed us to go out. We can take our sheets with us and sing as we "go out with joy" clapping our hands (if the spirit so moves).
So there, that is the list of changes I can think of and the reasons why behind these changes. And some we have grown accustomed to and some will take time. But if our actions are meeting our vision then we can rest assured that God is with us and the Spirit is moving. We are in this together!
I am finding that there is a quasi-generational relationship to
the church and to faith. I know there are great books written about
this and I believe Rev. Healy spoke of it in his talk at the Day of
Feasting, but these are just my musings. Feel free to call me and
set me straight.
There are some of us who show our love of God through our hard work, faithful attendance and care of the building that is dear to us, as well as faithful and regular giving. There is a steadfastness about this sort of faith. This hard work is a part of the duty we feel to our faith and church.
And there are some of us who show our love of God by connecting with the church through a variety of ways, relationships with others in the church, relationships with the pastor, attendance and giving (though not necessarily regular), and helping whenever called upon and in events that include the whole church. This sort of love for God is relational and not duty-bound.
Both are a part of God's family and I am sure there are many of us who would fall in between the two at different times in our lives. The trick is to remember the vision of the church is to bring people to Christ where ever they are at and recognize that they may stay at a different place than someone else. We are all children of God. There is not only one right way to do church.
We are an organization that has bills to pay (staffing,
heating/cooling, office supplies, outreach ministries). Over the
next two weeks I will be preaching on stewardship. Over the next
few months we will be looking at membership and what it means
financially and relationally. The treasurer and Joint Board will be
sending out letters concerning this year's deficit in the budget;
they will be starting a campaign to meet our need. Whether we like
it or not (and I don't like it) we need money to meet our vision of
We have seen the country create amazing amounts of money for those in need after September 11th. We can do this too. We can and will continue our ministry if all (duty and relational) members work together side by side and we can teach each other the meaning behind the Main Street Moravian Church.
We are all active in the ministry of the church even if it just means that we call this our church. Of course, we would like to move beyond that. And we want to serve as best we can so we are sending around a ministry review for you to complete concerning your worship leaders as well as your own ministry. Please fill this out and return to the church office or member of the Joint Board. Thank you, in advance, for your input!
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