Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer adventure…

The next two editions of this newsletter won’t include a letter from me. You know by now I’ll be on sabbatical, traveling in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey. I’ll miss the weekly rhythm of sermon, visiting, writing, worship, but am grateful for this gift of extended rest and study.

I hope Plymouth Creek is too. It’s not just my sabbatical, after all. All of us can use this time for renewal, rededication and prayer. Some churches even hire a sabbatical minister. We chose a different route. Four separate pastors will lead worship the eight weeks I’m gone. You’ll love their ministry, I’m certain!

And the Servant Leaders will take on pastoral responsibility. Please contact them with any concerns, or members of the Board. Still, I asked the SL Team what questions they wanted me to ponder while I’m gone, that they (and you!) could also explore. Predictably, their thoughts were interesting. Here’s what they said.

Again, part of my travel will include visiting churches and mosques from faith traditions quite different, and often older, than ours. With that background, one Servant Leader wondered, “What can we learn from these communities about hospitality?” That notion has been a focus of our ministry together these past years. We’ve changed the furniture, adapted our worship practices, added components to our ministry in hope that all visitors and guests will feel welcome. Nevertheless, building a fully robust culture of hospitality is always a work in progress. New people arrive. Old concerns endure. We still need to figure out an effective way to include more families with children. Plus, great hospitality takes more than being kind when someone comes to church. It demands pro-active initiative, constant hospitality innovation, bringing the values and love we cultivate within our walls to people beyond them in need of community. The places I visit this summer may have fresh ideas and creative solutions. So will you, I believe, when you put minds and spirits to the task.

Another question offered was, “How can Plymouth Creek engage the community around us more effectively?” That’s related to the previous question, of course, with greater emphasis on service and mission. We already do much for our neighborhoods and local residents in need, about which we should be proud. Yet a critical component of our church’s vision includes becoming a beacon, a leader, a model to all of the astounding power of Christian service through love. In other words, we should never be content to do enough, or even a little more. You have generous hearts, creative minds, and could tackle bigger problems than we do now. What issues aren’t being addressed around us that Plymouth Creek could take on? Might we provide local leadership in overcoming, say, suburban homelessness or environmental destruction? The countries I’ll visit wrestle with many problems, thankfully some dangerous ones we don’t face. Still, I’ll be looking for their wisdom, and excited to hear yours.

The last question posed was quite insightful; I suspect it’ll yield good fruit. Someone said, “In some of those older churches or mosques, immediately when you walk in, the power and glory of God’s majesty feels so present. Could we capture more of that in our church?” Smart observation, right?! And to my mind, we’re already on the way. I love our sanctuary’s high ceiling, large windows, open structure, intimate feel. It teaches one of Christianity’s most enduring and lovely paradoxes: God is always bigger than we imagine, yet closer than our next breath. What would it take to enhance that feeling? Not just with our facilities, but what we do. Are there certain worship forms or prayers, weekly activities or public statements that signal to virtually anyone who encounters our church that, truly, God is in this place, waiting with grace?

So that’s the project. I’ve been charged and commissioned, and now I hope you are too! Thank you, in advance, for the profound learning you’ll uncover and share. In the meantime, enjoy your summer. Stay cool, and rest up! There’s a Kingdom of God yet to come…and it’s ours to help build.

Grace and Peace,

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