Conversation on Community Life – 1

My sense is that God is calling us to revisit how we organize our life together. For instance, if we move to a situation where adults, children and youth mix more on Sunday morning and at other times, engaging one another on topics of faith and scripture, then less curriculum is needed (or at least different curriculum) and a different way of ordering our teaching responsibilities.

Someone has suggested that she would like to see a Wednesday evening worship service. Several others agreed with her. This was said after a meeting, ‘off the cuff’ as it were. I said at the time that I agreed something like that would be nice, though I didn’t know at the moment how it would work logistically. In principle, I heard a member of the church asking for us to increase opportunities for worship and spiritual growth, which I think we should honor by at least discussing. She was one of several folks who have had to work some Sundays and thus might appreciate a Wednesday night service. Who leads it, how it’s ordered, how music is provided, etc – I don’t know. I’m just passing it along.

As I said in worship last week, I think the solutions to these challenges are a prayerful task of the entire community. Part of that is honoring things like Jane’s suggestion and as I said to her – “talk to other folks about it, see who else is interested, and then think about how you could help it happen.”

We can pretty much guarantee that the Spirit will move in ways we don’t expect, and at least some of them will be things we’d prefer the Holy Spirit didn’t suggest, as they challenge us and call us out of our comfort zones. But, as a wise man once said, “The spirit blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) A significant part of our spiritual energy will be going toward managing our own anxiety in the midst of all this, remaining open to other people and their ideas and anxieties, and remaining focused on the voice of God speaking to us through it all. Remain humble.

All of that is to say that I don’t know how much we can decide about 2009 Calendar items. My hope will be to settle a calendar at least for January-February, and begin thinking about Lent – even enlisting a planning team much like the one we had for Advent. I long for us to find ways to engage the congregation in this conversation, and ask your prayers and thoughts on this. Let’s continue to have this conversation by email and face-to-face throughout the week so that our time Sunday can be more productive.

Some questions to consider:
How will we order Sunday morning, afternoon & evening
What mid-week gatherings will we as leaders organize/facilitate
How will we support the ministries of others as they step forward and voice “God is calling me…”
On a somewhat more personal note: You may have heard me speak earlier in 2008 about Clergy Renewal Grants from the Lilly Foundation ( They are offering Sabbatical Grants again in 2009, for the 2009-2010 season. I will have earned my 3 month sabbatical in October of 2009, and anticipate taking it sometime in 2010. The grants are designed so that congregation and clergy grow together from the experience, and thus the application process is one that we would all do together. We will begin this discussion tonight at Elders, and I want/plan to involve the entire congregation in the process beginning in January 2009. The question asked of applicants (clergy and congregation) is this: “What will make your heart sing?” For me the answer is revolving around several ideas we’ve discussed already:
“God is calling me to explore congregational ministry in a new way – under a new paradigm which I’m calling A Center for Suburban Spirituality. The question, as I have formed it thus far, is this: What would it mean for Forest Grove Christian Church to understand itself primarily as a center for Spiritual Formation and Theological Reflection?” (from Congregational Ministry – A New Paradigm – Summer 2008) – see attachment.

God has great things in store for our community working through this congregation. 2009 will be by far our greatest year of ministry ever.

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