Pastor’s Article: October Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Recently, I saw someone I hadn’t seen at church in a while. They were bold, and told me that the reason they don’t come to church regularly is because they are bored with “the church.” If I am honest with myself, church can be boring for me too. Most people assume that I live for everything church – worship, service, you name it. But that isn’t always the case (hey, I’m human too).

I share with you the questions I asked them, so that you might ask yourself next time you think you are bored with church.

  1. Do you know the way(s) you might best connect with God? I suspect that many of us don’t know how to personally connect with God. Is it through prayer, reading Scripture, writing, drawing, singing, sharing with a small group, being in solitude, hiking at daybreak, acts of serving others, etc., etc.? We change up the worship service every week and season to help us be able to reach all different kinds of learning styles. And if you’re not experiencing something that will help you connect to God, LET US KNOW what that might be! We’ll try to work that into our worship or programming!
  2. What are you bringing with you to church? Perhaps your boredom is due to whatever baggage you’re bringing with you into “the church.” As your pastor, I am keenly aware that every person in the room is in a different place. Some are having the best days of their lives, some are in deep mourning. Some trust the church, while others have deep wounds and/or scars from the damage the church has caused… the list could go on. I find that the times boredom kicks in, is when my heart and mind are somewhere else. Is the life that is happening outside the sanctuary something that you’re praying about inside of the church – or is it something that is preying on you and keeping you from being present?
  3. Is Sunday morning worship your sole form of sustenance? Please, please, please, quit making the Sunday service your sole form of sustenance! Believe me, I love having you in worship! But I encourage you to also: Attend a Bible Study. Help pack Blossom Gulch Snack Packs. Attend a Saturday Fellowship Meal (or help). Come have Wednesday Breakfast with a group of us at Kozy Kitchen. Volunteer in a local school. Pray along the prayer “wall.” Take a Volunteer in Mission trip to one of the United Methodist Committee On Relief Distribution sites. What we do on Sunday as “the church” is about half (at best) of what we need to be about as a Christians. At its origin, the Church was a place where people deeply engaged with one another’s stories, shared life and food, prayed, and invited new people to be a part of the journey. Our worship service on Sunday morning is not everything! To get everything, you have to diversify your investments and examine what it is you expect Sunday to be.

Remember this Sunday School song?: “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.” Guess what? If you’re bored with the church, and you’re a part of the church… well I don’t think I need to finish that sentence, do I?

If you need ideas, don’t hesitate to check out our new entryway bulletin board downstairs between the kitchen and fellowship hall doors! See you around “the church” as you Share, Connect, Serve, and Grow on your faith journey!

~ Pastor Laura

Pastor’s Article – September Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Have you ever had a sense that there ought to be more to being a member of the church than just attending worship, making a pledge, and sitting on a committee? If so, then you have experienced a “divine discontent”. Whatever our religious background may be, most of us long for something more, something bigger than ourselves. We catch fleeting hints of a spiritual hunger for a deeper relationship with God. Wherever we are along the journey of faith, we are pestered by the realization that church should not just be where we go, but who we are. Have you ever wondered:

  • How do I follow Jesus in a real way?
  • How can I experience a more vibrant relationship with God?
  • Where do I even begin to find a pathway leading to spiritual growth?
  • Why do I even come to church?

Harry Caray, the late and much-loved Chicago Cubs announcer, used to quip that on a given day the Cubs got what they aimed at: nothing. The same is often true for church people when it comes to discipleship. It might sound unduly harsh, but if our intention as a church is to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” then we should be intentional about ways we grow our own faith journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Beginning on September 13 through October 18, we are going to experience a new all-church worship and study series called A Disciple’s Path. We are going to take six Sundays and look at five biblically-rooted, time-tested core practices for fully devoted followers of Jesus. We will deeply explore prayers, presence, service, witness, and gifts.

  • Prayers: A disciple is one who practices a persistent pattern of prayer. My relationship with God in prayer is at the center of everything I say and do.
  • Presence: A disciple is one who worships weekly in the gathered congregation of followers of Jesus. This is my highest priority.
  • Service: A disciple is one who uses the spiritual gifts God has given to serve others as my way of participating in God’s transformation of the world.
  • Witness: A disciple is one who loves people enough to invite them to experience God’s love and become disciples of Jesus.
  • Gifts: A disciple is one who practices the biblical discipline of tithing, giving the first 10% of my income to God’s work as the starting point of my life of generosity.

You can purchase your books on September 6 or 13 for $16 each.

I invite you to get ready as we embark on A Disciple’s Path. Friends, these are the core practices of discipleship for every follower of Jesus. At the end of our study, I hope each of us will be able to put a check mark by each of the above statements. Thank you for being the incredible transforming fellowship you are. You can’t imagine how privileged I feel to be your pastor.

Pastor’s Note From the July Newsletter

Dear Friends,

John Wesley and other church reformers, all danced on the edge of the authority their churches gave them. They stayed connected with their faith communities while at the same time following God’s call to move beyond what was expected. Every sanctuary you’ve worshipped in, every beach service you have ever attended, every youth or children’s ministry that shaped your life, every music group/choir that has caused your soul to soar, every church camp you’ve ever been to, every outreach our church has accomplished (Snack Pack Program, Saturday Fellowship Meal, etc.) – all of these things came to fruition because some leader (either a pastor or lay person) dared to say YES.

How can we continue to enrich the lives of folks while giving permission to try new things for new people? Perhaps we should dare to say yes! Recently I read a quote from Wayne Gretsky, the championship hockey player: “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take.”

I have an idea. It stems from Tina Faye’s book “Bossypants” when she is talking about the rules of improvisation. The first rule is to say “yes.” The second rule is to say “yes, and…” You are supposed to agree and add something of your own – no matter how crazy, outlandish or stupid the scenario. A great improvisational actor says, “Yes, and.” When you hesitate even for one second or acknowledge how implausible or crazy the scenario is, the scene is over.

It seems to me the church’s response is never really, “Yes, and” but rather a hesitation or saying “we tried that before.” (which as we all know doesn’t work for Harmony UMC because we’ve NEVER done ANYTHING together before!!) Here is a crazy idea – what if our church started approaching new ministry ideas with, “Yes, and”? What if, in our talking about Share, Connect, Serve, Grow, we encouraged people to start sentences with, “This might be crazy, …” and instead of instantly dismissing the thoughts, we said, “Yes, and” and built upon that crazy idea. That crazy idea just might be the catalyst for a new fruit-filled journey for our church!

The Beach service might not be your thing. That’s okay. Organ music might not be your thing. That’s okay. When we weigh our limitations, balk or hesitate because another’s experience of God is different than our own, perhaps we’re forgetting that with God, all things are possible. Lets ask instead: 1. Is it sharing the unconditional love of God? 2. Is it connecting people with God and others? 3. Is it serving compassionately? 4. Is it helping someone grow on their faith journey?

I would much rather be the person that God works through rather than the person God has to work around. What can I say “Yes, and” to? Email or call me or the leadership council with your “This might be crazy” idea! Let’s see what God can do!

Pastor Laura