Friday, October 1, 2010

…there is a season… (October Creeksider)

The third pastoral letter I wrote our church began with the above quote from Ecclesiastes (or, depending on your preference, the American folk-rock band, “The Byrds”). I spoke about transitions, and the seasons of ministry we go through- as individuals, as churches, as families- and how the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes should lead us to embrace such seasons of change as part of God’s design. Not rebel against change as unnatural. Nor assume that any one seasonal change will be the final word, forever. We may not always like what’s in season, of course. But things always ‘turn, turn, turn,” or as the words of Solomon’s Ring suggest, “This too shall pass.” Whatever “this” is.

Well, a change in our season of ministry as a church is near. Some of you know this already, but everyone should know, because it impacts us all. Thy Word Worship Center, the Apostolic faith church who began ministry in our building almost four years ago, will be leaving very soon. I can’t say exactly when that will occur, although it’s most likely that October 31 will be Thy Word’s final Sunday here.

As often happens with any significant change, my heart feels heavy and sad about this situation. Although Thy Word is certainly a dissimilar church than Plymouth Creek, who hold different expectations about worship, and teach some different ideas about Christian faith, they are our sisters and brothers in Jesus, and so they will be missed. Indeed, it’s never been us v. them. It’s all ‘Us.’ And when part of ‘us’ leaves, we should feel some loss and sadness. Yes, as a result, our church building will be more available for programming that can help Plymouth Creek move forward and realize God’s fullest vision for our church. I look forward to turning that opportunity into reality with you in many ways. But before we move on, it’s important, for ourselves and our building partners-in-ministry, to reflect on the good we did together, and why I’m sad to see this end.

Plymouth, Minnesota has not been an historical hotbed for multiculturalism, although that’s fast changing. Elementary school principals say that their classroom compositions in recent years have become much more diverse as more African-American and Latino families move into this area. Which means, as our neighbors claim a wider array of ethnic heritages, our suburb will have to adapt its understanding about how race dynamics matter in our lives. One such adaptation, of course, will be among churches. Do we continue to worship in styles that solely reflect white church culture, and thus reach out to a diminishing percentage of our neighbors? Or will we attempt to adapt, and make our church more open? No easy answer to that. But one solution we’ve helped implement over the past four years was to nurture and support an African-American new church start in Plymouth, when there was none before. It’s been trying at times, glorious at others, but in the end, that Thy Word maintains its viability and vibrancy as a church is something for all to be proud of, and to thank God for helping make happen.

But this very success is the reason for the change. Thy Word has grown to a point that the limitations we all have to accept as partners in this facility are no longer an asset, but a liability. Jesus’ Table has no limit for how many people can fit around it. Our church building, however, can only fit so many! So to ensure the continued growth of both communities, we made the decision to change our relationship, and worship in separate facilities. Where that will be for Thy Word? I can’t answer that yet, alas. But as their pastors told me, “Shane, God will make a way. God put us here in Plymouth. God needs us here in Plymouth. So we will continue to serve Plymouth and show the love of Jesus, wherever the final building ends up being.”

Amen. My translation- This change in season, despite the falling leaves around us, will usher in Spring for both our churches. A time for hope.

Grace and Peace,
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