“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down; they cannot rise; they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” ~ Isaiah 43:16-19
We met with the combined Faith UCC/First Christian DOC committee on Monday, January 16 for the first time. It was a good, and emotional meeting. I expect most of our conversations are going to lean to the emotional side. We thought it would be best for me not to report on the meeting—please see Cheryl Leamer’s Notes from the Council Chair on page 2 for those details. Rather, I am going to be your spiritual guide through this process. Sometimes when we let emotion get the better of us, we need someone to center us, get us back on track. That will be my role.
First, what we are doing is called Shared Ministry, which we are already doing. We not only share space, but we have shared our missions and ministries over the last year—Share-A-Meal, Lenten gatherings, Sunday Bible Study and Sunday School, special services, Trunk or Treat, to name a few. What our “shared ministry” will look like in the future, has yet to be determined.
If you haven’t already, I invite you to read the scripture above. “Do not remember the former things…..I am about to do a new thing….” I honestly believe that what God is telling us is NOT to forget our pasts, but rather, to forget the “way things have always been done.” Clearly, those no longer work for us. It is time to honor our past, while not allowing it to get in the way of our future. Easier said than done, I know.
The past can be nostalgic. With nostalgia comes emotion. Throw in some tradition that moves us, or is rooted deeply within us, and when those things are in danger of changing, we begin to get defensive. But God is doing something new. God is taking two churches, who are not able to go it alone much longer, and making a stronger church; a united church; a united people. God is removing the division from two churches of two different denominations and calling us to show the world (at least our little corner of it!) that one by one, it can be done. We can be united. We can, and are called, to be ONE Body in Christ.
How will this look? Again, this question can cause an emotional uprising. Some want it one way, some the other. Some want one thing, some want another. And back and forth, until nothing is settled.
But there is another way. In reality, it is the only way which will work. That is by keeping God at the center at all times. This calls for courage, patience, listening to understand one another, loving one another (even when we don’t want to), but most importantly, the way through to that new thing God is creating is for us to remember WHY we are church. We must keep our eyes focused on the mission and ministries we are being called toward— some of which we have never heard of yet!
While we follow God, keeping God at the center, I want us to remember a couple of things:
1) Shared Ministry is about innovation, unification, expanding, support, and working together.
2) What Shared Ministry is NOT, is survival. If we are doing this for survival purposes—whether for human resources, or (and maybe especially) financial resources, then we might as well stop now. If that is our focus, then shared ministry will not work.
So, I ask you—no, I challenge you—to pray that we keep God at the center at all times; for open ears, eyes, hearts, and minds; for wisdom; for courage; and most of all, for God to continue to be guide in this process. Because with God—EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.