Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Celebrating Ministry,

About four years ago, Plymouth Creek began an incredible ministry, especially once you consider our church’s small size. We committed to- every Sunday- providing a bus driver to PCCC members and guests with difficulty driving to worship. The large congregation I served in Lexington, Kentucky also ran a bus ministry. They stopped by three elder living facilities around town weekly, then dropped folk off after service. I had that model in mind when we started our own journey, with one significant shift: Our pool of potential drivers was about one-tenth the size!

But we made it work, and spectacularly. Let me remind you how we were able to create this service, and why. Around ten years back, one of our sister congregations, in Fridley, ended their active ministry; to use language from one our founding documents, they “dissolved into the greater Body of Christ.” From everything I’ve heard and seen, this church- Valley View Christian- was a beautiful, close-knit group of faithful Disciples. Unfortunately, the march of time and shifting societal values (not to mention a retaining wall built for I-694 that shrouded Valley View from public view) conspired with other things to challenge their ability to sustain a budget. Ask Ruth for the full story!

So they closed their doors, sold their building, gave some money to SACA- the local foodshelf- and the remaining proceeds were invested, with earned interest designated to help Disciples churches seed new ministries. It was a beautiful, generous vision. But before others could access those funds, Valley View members needed, still, to get to church!

Well, several joined Plymouth Creek, so we initially received that interest to hire a weekly bus service to transport these folk, their guests, and others. The Valley View fund, then, was paused from helping others as originally envisioned. Unless…say…the Valley View fund gave PCCC money to buy and operate a bus ourselves…and if several PCCCers committed to helping, by driving, their neighbors. So we asked around and what do you know?! A group of volunteer drivers said Yes!

We applied for the funds. We got them. We bought a bus. And now, we bring these dear friends to worship weekly, while they bring their friends and neighbors (some whom have joined our church). Plus, throughout Minnesota and Iowa, churches annually apply to the Valley View fund for help create new ministries, including youth work, food pantries and enhanced elder care. A teenager dying from cancer attended a football game for her beloved Iowa State, because of that money. Which is to say, because you- Plymouth Creek- said, “Yes, I’ll serve by driving!” Our church, and many other lives, are simply better.

I write about this for several reasons. For some of you, we’ve had a bus that some drive weekly for as long as you’ve been here, and didn’t know why. Some of you maybe forgot that story, or never knew its full impact, and perhaps took for granted what great ministry it does and is! But I also wanted to share that our initial cadre of bus drivers has diminished, for several reasons- health, say, or moving- all of them important and fine. But that means those who remain have gone from driving once every two months to once every month, and while they’re wonderful, giving souls, I worry that will provide them too much of a burden.

So I’m hoping a couple of you- men and women (there’s no rule that only dudes can drive!)- will reflect on this ministry’s value, and celebrate its success by saying Yes! to being a driver yourself? If so, call me, and not only will I celebrate with you, I’ll also give you one of the special, coveted Plymouth Creek bus driver caps…

And thanks for considering, dear friends. Consider it a potential Christmas/New Year’s gift you can give, not just to your church, but many others besides. As our Regional Minister loves to say, we are Disciples Together, and that’s awesome, because by working together, worshipping together, being together we make God’s world better.

Grace and Peace,
Shane Isner

P.S.- FYI, anyone’s welcome to ride along to see this ministry in action, or if you’re wondering about utilizing it sometime, which you’re welcome to…just let me know!

P.P.S- Get ready for the 2015 Cinema Sermon Series, starting January 10/11 with…Superman!!
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