My congregation is ‘in transition’, having had our previous ‘settled Pastor’ of 22 years retire just about a year ago.  We have enjoyed the talents, skills and inspirations of an ‘interim Pastor’ who will continue the journey of faith with us until we again find a ‘settled Pastor’.  We are in the midst of re-envisioning our congregation.  We have an all church meeting soon and today, as I started to pray and muse about this, quite a bit came to me.  Being who I am, there’s a prayer at the end.

21st C church 

God calls us to be the Christian Church.  In our denomination, the United Church of Christ, God’s charge or purpose for each congregation is believed to be a little different from all others. 

As we begin this new chapter in our congregation’s history, might it be a reasonable time to consider, on a grand scale, how we will best serve God?

Do I speak heresy when I say that perhaps it’s time to reconsider each of the regular activities, as well as each of the ministry teams and each of the paid positions?  What if I would suggest that all of us resign from our posts, at least while we seek this year’s iteration of God’s purpose for us?  You see, it’s easier to consider what we should be each aspect of our ministry if we don’t have a face associated with a role. 

Then, once the 2013 vision is articulated and we find the areas where we can agree and feel God’s will, each of us could apply for a job after we’ve called a ‘settled’ pastor?  I understand some of these activities and roles are in our church constitution/covenant, but I wonder if we’re truly following God if we continue to be bound by papers drawn up some time ago.  Perhaps we need to agree to release our roles… perhaps planning to do so shortly after the ‘settled pastor’ is called… and then for the next few months, we truly can be free to create the Congregational Church of Batavia and to create it to the best of our understanding of God’s plan for it.

How would the new church look?  I don’t know yet, and I bet you don’t either.

21st C

I understand that we’re in a relatively conservative area.  I see that many of us appreciate best the worship style with which we were raised: prayers, music and order of worship.  I know that familiarity often leads to comfort and the opportunity to relax while attempting to connect with The Divinity we call God.

I also understand that the words my parents used and the words I use are unlike the words my children use.  While I know I’m likely more than half way through my life, my children are only beginning their adult lives.  While I am at a point where my income likely will not continue to grow, I suspect my children can expect that their incomes will.  And I know the fixed portions of our congregation’s budget are likely to increase as well – water, heat, power, communications – all of these utilities have increased in cost and likely will continue to do so.  Perhaps there are items we’ve never considered because the current budget is stretched.

Perhaps my proposal is radical or ridiculous.  However, I would suggest that all of us try to take a big step back.  I would suggest that we pray to be loosed from whatever holds us to our ways, at least for a little while.  I would suggest that we seek God’s will first, and while celebrating our rich congregational heritage, we spend time in prayer imagining how the church of the 21st would look, and how OUR church will look in the 21st century.

Ministries to the oppressed?  Ministries working for justice, not just handing someone today’s food or clothing.

Ministries to the ‘spiritual but not religious’?  Ministries in which those who otherwise would not fit, nor access the Divine Deity, might feel comfortable taking an occasional step… or being with others who consider themselves spiritual?

Ministries to those with ‘alternative lifestyles’, perhaps affirming that ‘while I’m not of that lifestyle, we are all children of the one God and I see your lifestyle as authentic, valid, viable.’

Worship on days other than Sunday and/or at times not ‘first thing in the morning’.

Worship with different language, music, modalities, methods, or locations.

Worship that demonstrates our respect and value for participants at every stage of life.

There are more, I’m certain, but I’m only one flawed woman.  I can’t imagine them all.  Together, with the Spirit of the Living God, I know we can.

 

Will you pray with me please? 

Divine Deity,

You have been in existence forever, far before any of us were conceived and far before our ancestors even could conceive of us.  You are the energy that keeps the universe changing.  You are the word, and your word is love.

Glorious Grandother,

I pray today for my congregation.  I pray that you will inspire each of us, as if you were whispering in our ears.  Lord, we seek to know your will for us. Lead us to be your people.

Extravagant Ever-presence,

All that we have comes from you.  Thank you for this congregation, filled with loving, giving people.  Lord, we love you so much!

In Jesus’ name, I pray,

Amen.

To God be the glory!

Melissa Pazen © 2013

Live Inspired:  pray continually; think boldly; dare greatly; love unconditionally; act deliberately, kindly, justly, mercifully and humbly; forgive easily; laugh frequently!

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