Sunday, February 8, 2009

A More Perfect Union…

Forgive the obvious drama of that phrase, but I really like it. You may recognize it from President Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address, which I read and wrote about to you a few weeks back. To Lincoln, I believe, this phrase signified an important insight into the nation he led. We began as a union of disparate communities from different places across the continent (or at least the East Coast), pledging nevertheless to live together under one banner for the purpose of a common cause. Lincoln seems to suggest that this union of communities and colonies amounted to something great, but his great insight was that this union could be, proper grammar aside, even more perfect. Indeed, as his years in the presidency showed, ideals forever outpace our efforts to embody them; it’s what keeps us moving forward. So he called his country to strive for something more, while celebrating the joys of the union they already experienced. If only the call was headed…

This concept rattled through my untidy mind last week, after what was the second of recent meetings between leadership from Thy Word Worship Center, Yellow Brick Road Child Care and Plymouth Creek. Things actually began before I arrived as pastor, not just because y’all invited YBR and TW to share our space some years back, but also because Chana and Al met with the pastors of Thy Word about a week or two before my coming to discuss certain matters of mutual concern. It became clear then, and continues to be so, that ongoing dialogue between our organizations, in some formal capacity, would prove productive for meeting whatever challenges arose, anticipating what had yet to surface, and planning shared opportunities for work and mission. So in December, due in part to an issue of property mistreatment that needed confronting (alas), we realized this vision and sat down together. It was very good, I must say, and we resolved to meet again in January (last week).

The topics we discussed were both broad and specific.  We wanted to clarify each organization's expectations about building use, and challenge ourselves to adopt more effective and life-giving methods of communication (Dr. Leman Nutall said it well, "I'd like to talk with folk more often than just when something goes wrong"; a wise man, I've come appreciate).  We learned there was confusion about who's cleaning the bathrooms when, and have since established a more equitable distribution of labor (our part is to perform a quick inspection of the restrooms during cleanup after fellowship hour).  We adopted a better way to inform each other of upcoming events.  We admitted instances of lapsed oversight; sought common ground on shared frustrations.  And we committed to working together not only to respect this space ("God's House" as Dr. Leman suggested), but also to using our partnership for pursuing mission together.  Thus, Thy Word and YBR will join Plymouth Creek in our March Mission Adventure of supplying food to the MN Foodshare.

In short, we want to work together to form a more perfect union. I say this because it is our shared understanding that these relationship are not just those of landlord to tenants. Plymouth Creek opens its doors to other organizations as an outgrowth of our commitment to Christian Hospitality. As such, we have a stake in each other’s future, and want our efforts to help others achieve their mission. With Thy Word, the mission is similar: love God, neighbor and self. With YBR, it’s a bit different, but something we value too: provide high-quality care for beloved children at prices below market average. We know, of course, that hospitality sometimes means putting up with stuff we’d rather not. Things sometimes get moved, or dirtied, or broken. And because of that we’ve resolved to continue these regular meetings- to support one another, to stay focused on our common mission and perfecting union, to discuss issues openly, in one another’s midst, and to find resolution to conflict. Thus, I urge you, if you notice ways to enhance our partnership with YBR and TW, please let me know your observations and possible solutions, and we’ll include those in the conversation. Or let me know if you’d like to join the discussion. As I’ve heard before, the Table is open…

And above all, I hope we continue to celebrate this unique arrangement; a vibrant nesting congregation and a loving child care center. Far more than the income they provide our operating budget, I appreciate the many ways these partners help us fulfill our mission as a church; the many new things I’ve learned by spending time with their leaders and their members; they very real way in which my saying ‘them and us’ is really becoming just ‘us.’ As I reflect on these relationships, I’m called perpetually to remember that fundamental ingredient of Christian faith, hospitality, or as President Lincoln put it, at the end of his address, “the better angels of our nature.” In all things, I wish you,

Grace and Peace,


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