Sunday, December 25, 2011

A candle and a promise

Last night, The Well's first Christmas Eve worship gathering began in a dimly lit room with only the light from our small Advent candles. These candles had been lit as we journeyed through the season of anticipating Christ's birth. Each signified a promise that hope, peace, love and joy would be realities in our lives and in our world. The room grew brighter as we listened to and entered into the Christmas narrative. A prophet's vision would be realized, a barren woman would give birth, a virgin would conceive. The Messiah would come in the form of a tiny baby and dwell with us. What began with a promise became a promise fulfilled as two boys in our church family lit the Christ candle. Light overcame darkness and the room was full and bright as we each raised candles high and worshiped the One who fulfills our longings.

This Christmas morning, I am so thankful for Light. I am thankful for the truth that love can overcome fear and doubt, that old patterns can be broken, that joy can be experienced here and now. God is with us! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The voice of Advent

It has been a busy couple of weeks as we have gathered for monthly worship, hosted a service of comfort and partnered to provide a Christmas store and day of fun for neighborhood families. Makes me tired just writing all of that! Although we as a faith community have encouraged a resistance to the busyness of the holidays, it has been difficult not to get consumed by all of this activity. It has taken a great deal of effort to rest, to balance and to slow down enough to hear the rich sounds of Advent.

A couple of weeks ago during worship, the peace candle was lit by a participant of The Well. I had asked him to share briefly about his definition of "peace", and to share a personal example of how he had experienced peace in unexpected circumstances. His story has stayed with me. He began telling about his resistance to enter a treatment program that would help him recover from addiction. He reluctantly entered after his family staged an intervention on his behalf. He endured the program half-heartedly, but admitted to planing to return to his addictive behaviors after finishing treatment. He described how on one morning, the ongoing noise that had filled his head for as long as he could remember suddenly stopped. As he sat alone in a room, he heard a voice from the hallway saying these words of warning: "If you don't stop, you're going to die."

As we lit the peace candle, we heard peace defined as "the time when the other voices stopped and I could hear the one that mattered...God's voice." This has stayed with me. The temptation during this time of year, and in most seasons of life is to hear what's on the surface. Advent reminds us that there is a deeper voice longing to be heard. The sounds of love, hope, joy and peace are waiting to be heard and spoken in our lives and communities. These voices are longing to confront the noises of power, violence, and hopelessness that seem so dominant. This season of anticipation invites us to wait attentively, believing that at any moment, these sounds will emerge. This season also invites us to anticipate a day in the future when all the noise will stop, and only one voice will be heard. I pray we will have the courage to hear the voice of Advent that calls us beyond our busyness and into the depths of God's creative power at work among us.

Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
-Revelation 1:7-8

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's the little things...

Over the past year and a half, the list of things I am thankful for has changed and grown. When expressing thanks, I often find myself using the phrase "it's the little things." Those things that are often overlooked, often brushed past or unnoticed have felt like milestones in this church starting journey. I want to share a few of those things with you...

  • When I hear someone at The Well say "our church" or "we need to..." (reminds me that we are in this together, something I find very comforting!)
  • Hugs from friends who are glad to see me
  • The encouragement of those who follow this blog, and share their own insights through email, in person or by commenting
  • The sharing of fresh insights into the story of scripture ("I've never thought of it this way before, but...")
  • The realization of what we can do if we each share a small amount (from great potluck dinners to providing for a neighbor in need)
  • A place to meet that immediately felt like "home" to us
  • People eager to partner and "plot goodness" with us
  • Words like "next year, we should..." (reminds me that a faith community has taken shape and is anticipating the future - thanks be to God!)
  • Countless impromptu conversations with strangers who quickly became friends
  • The helpful hands of family and friends (including parents who care for our children after school at least one afternoon every week!)
  • Kevin's words when he gets home from work almost every single night: "I'm always glad to get home to my family." (this time last year, he was still commuting from Atlanta!)
It's all of these little things that add up to one big sense of awareness that God is with me/us on the journey. I pray for greater awareness of these not-so-small reminders, and for the wisdom to pause and give thanks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Eating and drinking together

It's ironic that The Well has experienced communion together in both our first monthly worship gatherings. It's ironic because too often in the life of our own family, we forgo eating and drinking together (at the same time, at the same table) because of our schedules. I know that when we are not intentional about eating together, we miss out on valuable time of really seeing and hearing one another. We miss out on being still together and enjoying the gift of a shared meal.

Certainly, the communion meal or Eucharist is about more than enjoying the goodness of food and friendship. In fact, it is a meal rich with symbol and meaning. It is a time of both remembrance and celebration of the life of Christ. It is a metaphor for our receiving, being nourished by, and sharing the gifts we have been given through God's grace. It is a way by which we participate with Christ's first disciples in accepting the reality of our reliance on God to sustain us for the journey of both suffering and joy that will pave the way to the cross and the tomb.

I just finished watching a DVD version of this Sunday's worship gathering. It was really helpful for me to step back and see what took place without being distracted by the responsibility of the logistics. I saw and heard the sounds of a family coming together to participate in something significant. There was the hearing of God's story, the sharing of our personal stories, the singing of songs claiming hope and faith, and the call to accept and participate in the way of restoration. We were invited to respond in several ways to how we heard and saw God in worship, including the response of coming to the table to share in communion. I watched as people slowly and thoughtfully made their way to receive the bread and the cup, and I recognized another meaning of this ancient meal come to life. I witnessed how our eating and drinking together at the Lord's table serve as a means for transforming a group of individuals into a community of acceptance and hospitality where all are welcome. Young, old, black, white, rich, poor came to the table. They ate and drank from the same loaf and cup, and through this shared meal, gave witness to a God who loves and accepts each one of us. Our professions, achievements, incomes and agendas seemed irrelevant. We all needed the bread and the cup, and we were all called to share it as we journeyed from that place.

I was reminded to be grateful for the goodness of God that is experienced as we gather around tables to enjoy food together. Fortunately for The Well, there are always opportunities to enjoy a meal together, including our upcoming 'Gather Round on November 20th. We'll not only share a potluck meal, but we'll have intentional conversation about how feast(s) and table(s) nourish, shape and challenge us as human beings. We'll think, dream and "plot goodness" around how as people of faith we can be more responsible with how we grow, enjoy, purchase and share our food. If you're in Jacksonville, I hope you will join us. You can register here, and then just show up with one of your favorite dishes.

Grace and peace...until our next meal together.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A beautiful mess

I realized earlier this week yet another way that five years in Georgia has influenced more than just my path in ministry. As I rushed around from meeting to meeting, energized by each conversation, scattered yet grateful, a song came to mind. A country song came to mind. Yes, while living in Atlanta, I had gotten into the habit of listening to some good 'ole country music, and on this day of running late and feeling only half prepared, I began singing Diamond Rio's Beautiful Mess. While the romance-centered mess re-told in the song did not really match the story of my day, the idea of a beautiful mess did. I realized that in moments like these, as uncomfortable as they were for me, I was part of something beautiful.

For the last month on Sunday nights, The Well has been discussing what a spiritual community would look like if it practiced caring for its neighbors, not with charity, but with friendship and economic redistribution. Toward the end of our discussion, one participant commented, "If we do this, if we really practice the stuff we're talking about, it's going to be messy." I wish in retrospect I had let that thought settle for longer and had not moved on so quickly. Her reflection was heartfelt and seemed full of both confession and warning. Are we really serious about getting involved in this kind of work? Are we ready for what might happen? Are we willing to move away from our neat, well-defined and strategic projects and into new, more tangled and vulnerable ways of being in relationship with one another?

On numerous occasions described in scripture, Jesus said "the kingdom of heaven is like...". Compared to a seed, a child, a feast, a pearl, a wedding, the kingdom seems something to be grasped, yet something difficult to define. The kingdom, the work of God, is not easily defined, it does not provide a quick fix, it does not keep us isolated and disconnected from pain and suffering. When we dare to venture into the work of participating in God's work in the world, yes, it is messy and it is beautiful.

I've mentioned before that I do not like mess. I am learning, though, that you can't have the beauty without getting into the unsettled, tangled, often chaotic web of activity and connectivity that can make us feel crazy at times. This particular day involved creating a first budget for our church, sharing in grief over the sudden death of a family member, and planning a Christmas store for low-income families. It involved too many schedules, too many changes, too much pain and too little time.

A couple of questions come to mind: How do we handle the mess? Can we become obsessed with making things neat and manageable? Instead, are there ways we can begin blessing it, calling it beautiful, and recognizing that it just might be the kingdom of God unfolding before us?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stop and celebrate

A couple of weeks ago, I took both of our girls to the pediatrician for their annual check-ups. I always get a little nostalgic when we go because I realize another year has passed, and they are growing up too quickly! This time, as I sat looking at my daughters in their paper gowns preparing for the doctor to arrive, I felt more than a sentimental stirring. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude at the fact that they are healthy. It suddenly dawned on me that there was so much to celebrate about that moment - we have health-care, insurance, have not been sick much, have access to immunizations (which my daughters might argue is nothing to celebrate!), and the list goes on. I felt gratitude, and yes, I also felt a tinge of guilt. While I can be pretty good at noticing when things are not going my way, I can be pretty bad a pausing to celebrate the good things.

I have a long list of things to celebrate, but instead of boring you with the list, I'll share one beautiful example. Two years ago this month, I was considering accepting an associate pastor staff position in a wonderful church in rural Georgia. I was thrilled to have this opportunity, and it was a good one. The role would involve many of the things I love to do. I thought and prayed and listened as people urged me to seriously consider accepting the call. Despite their advice, I just could not do it. Something told me no. About that same time, I began paying more attention to this opportunity I had heard about that involved starting new CBF churches in Florida. I did some reading on new ways of being church and church starting and attended a conference with others involved in "missional community formation." While I was drawn to the idea of church planting, it also seemed too risky, overwhelming, and was not something I could really see myself doing.

This Sunday, as The Well at Springfield celebrated the start of monthly worship, I celebrated my calling into this risky and at times overwhelming work. Admittedly, there have been many days when I have wondered when and how this new faith community was going to take shape; however, this was not one of them. As I looked around the room, I realized that a church had formed and I felt such affirmation. The stirring not to move into a traditional ministry position was what I needed to listen to, even as difficult and crazy as it seemed at the time. The stirring to be part of something new led us to this beautiful day, and for that I want to stop and celebrate.

After Sunday came Monday which brought another work and school week, a car breakdown, and an array of activity. I was about to move on too quickly until I remembered the visit to the pediatrician. I remembered to stop, and to soak in the goodness of Sunday. I need to stop and celebrate, and not forget how wonderful it is to sense the affirmation. I need to stop and celebrate the privelege of serving a God who still shapes and stirs, and to see the evidence of God's love and care through friends who gathered for worship. I'm sure I'll need it to look back upon in the days ahead.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A new thing

A friend recently made the observation that as people of faith, we have often failed to read the story of scripture as a whole, but instead have focused on its individual parts. Those who grew up going to church know the stories of Moses being placed in a basket by his mother, the story of David and Goliath and the story of the paralytic being lowered through a rooftop to be healed by Jesus. I wonder what would happen, though, if we did take a fresh look at the entire story of scripture and allowed the narrative to speak a fresh word to us today.

One theme that emerges when we examine the broader story of scripture is that of restoration. While there are many interruptions along the way, God's activity always seems to be moving forward - - to a promised land, to a future king, to a baby being born, to a day when all things will be made new. I must admit this forward-moving story can be disturbing at times - - When will there no longer be a need for God to create something new? When will there finally be peace and a settling down that no longer require our looking forward? While it can be frustrating, it can also be extremely exciting when we begin to look around and see the ways that a new reality is taking place here and now. I see this when an unlikely friendship takes shape and leads to new level of acceptance. I see this when people are moved to take up the cause of the oppressed in our society and freedom becomes a possibility. I've seen this recently as a new community of faith is forming out of a renewed passion for following Christ.

Restoration implies returning something to its original condition. It does not mean wiping away the old and starting all over. Most often in scripture, this is how we see God dealing with humanity. God uses human beings to lead, serve, share, provide and gather. God is restoring all of creation to its original sense of wholeness, and God uses us to do this. The life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus is more than the description of a transaction (his death + his resurrection = our eternal life). I believe that is the simplistic explanation that requires little more than our acceptance. Jesus' life, death and resurrection brought into being a new state of things - and it requires more than our acceptance - it requires our participation.

Springfield is a community where the restoration of homes is cherished activity, but it is not easy work. Just like the work of restoring relationships, there are often set backs and interruptions that slow progress. It is into this community and this city that The Well is seeking to engage would-be followers of Christ in God's story of restoration. We invite new and old friends and neighbors to join us on the first Sunday of each month (Oct. 2, Nov. 6th, Dec. 4th) for a worship gathering that will center around this theme of "Being Restored". I am eagerly anticipating how God is going to do a new thing as we gather together this Sunday, and I hope if you are in the area, you will consider being a part.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No room for competition

Since beginning The Well at Springfield, we have emphasized the importance of being a collaborating community of faith. We not only wanted to be a welcoming presence, but a church that is cooperative and interactive with others in our neighborhood and city. This includes other churches. Early on, I met co-pastors of a Lutheran congregation in Springfield, and I could tell right away that we were like-minded in our understandings of what it means to be church. They immediately became friends and partners in ministry.

This is not always the case. Often times, churches treat one another like competition. We don't want to help one another out because of fear we will lose out some we are somehow creating a business of religious goods and services and vying for the same consumers. That is so far from my understanding of what it means to be church that I don't even know where to begin; yet, at times, I too find myself uncomfortable in the midst of collaboration. I think it is so ingrained in me/us to be the best at what we do that we prefer to work alone, even in the church.

I guess I've chosen to go against the norm. I can't preach a gospel of inclusion and then try to set out on my own course of separation from others. This past Sunday was a great example of why.

On the ten year anniversary of 9/11, we worshiped with St. John's Lutheran Church and the service was jointly-led by our two congregations. People of differing faith traditions joined one another, sang, prayed and even broke bread together. I believe we recognized that there is something much bigger than our differences and much more important than our distinct doctrines. We sensed God bringing us together to express our common pain, to confess a belief that God is our source of hope, and to encourage one another to be good neighbors. God's love and healing transcended our human-made boundaries and together, we experienced more of God.

In a world where tragedies like 9/11 are a reality here just as they have been abroad, there is no room for competition. We must find ways to participate in what God is doing in places and people everywhere. It will make us uncomfortable at times, but it can only serve to further the peace, love and healing that make God's kingdom known here and now...and, oh how we need it to be known and experienced here and now.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The gift of feeling prepared

Over the last few weeks, we have done our share of back to school shopping. School supplies, a couple of new outfits for the girls, and even new backpacks. Some of these things are required, and some are not, but they represent the ways we enthusiastically anticipate and prepare for the start of a new school year. It's an exciting time as the girls wait to hear who their teachers will be and count down till the first day of school!

A couple of days ago, as a family of five came to the church hoping for financial assistance, I experienced a very different perspective on the school year. This family had undergone financial hardship since their move to Jacksonville last year. While one of the children was excited about starting school, the others were less than thrilled (admittedly, because they had no clothes or school supplies). While the dad explained their situation, he expressed his frustration over not being able to provide for his family, particularly during this time of year. After a few minutes, another minister and I led this family to a room of clothing that was not yet organized, but might help them get started on some back to school clothing.

As we entered the room, the youngest child (a seven year old boy) lit up when he immediately spotted an over-sized gray sweatshirt. It was worn and twice his size, but he called it "so cool," then asked if he could please have it. My heart sank, and I was humbled by his unexpected gratitude over something I had so easily taken for granted - the feeling of being prepared to start a new year of school.

While we have had our share of financial crunches, we have never failed to find a way to make ends meet. We've never faced eviction or the threat of having our utilities turned off. We've never had to send our children to school feeling unprepared or inadequate to be there. I imagine that feeling unprepared to begin school can have a definite impact on a child's enthusiasm for learning and confidence to achieve success in school.

This Saturday, The Well is partnering with Northeast Florida Community Action Agency to host a Neighborhood Back to School Bash in Springfield. It's not only about providing for families in need, it's also about fostering a sense of community and an atmosphere of anticipation at this critical time in the lives of families. We are celebrating the start of a new school year, eating together, playing games, honoring teachers, and sharing supplies with children who may not feel prepared to return to school. It's going to be an exciting time, and a great opportunity to support one another in preparing our kids for a new school year. I hope to see some of you there!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Change is not easy

Now that Kevin is back in Jax. with us for good, I am trying to return to a more healthy, balanced life. I have my new running shoes, and I've started back to running a few mornings a week. I knew that it would take a while to get back in the groove, but I underestimated how difficult it would be to ditch my early morning leisurely coffee and reading routine. Change is rarely easy, but in my experience it is worth the hard work.

The neighborhood in which we are planting The Well has been undergoing change for quite some time. While the statistics show a reduction in crime and other illegal activity, change has been a slow process. Making matters more difficult, residents and community activists disagree on what types of changes need to occur and how they should be carried out. One of the most recent breakthroughs came with the beginning of the demolition of a long-time vacant inn that had served as a haven for the homeless (but not a good one, since the building was unsafe and unstable). The picture above shows the work that has begun, but like the rest of the road to new life in the community, it's going to take a while.

I find that the road to starting a new church is similar. Like community development, church starting and re-starting requires patience and determination. Even more than that, it requires confronting those habits, routines and assumptions that keep me from seeing all of the options available for the path ahead. This week, I realized just how limited my imagination can be as we began looking at alternative meeting spaces. One space almost looked too tied to the past, and the other too lacking in history. As a friend and I began to talk about reconfiguring the seating and adding a few elements, things started to look different. It never fails that when I feel "stuck", it is because I am reverting to old patterns of the way things have always been done, to what is comfortable and familiar. Pioneering a new way of doing and being church is difficult because it challenges me to risk that new, untried, innovative options are more effective, and sometimes they are not. The willingness to choose a new path, the willingness to change, inevitably involves failure. Some of those failures will be really small and others will be big, there for all to see....another thing that makes change so difficult for me.

I've decided that there is no better place to be trying something new than in Springfield. There seems to be almost no limit to what people will try to create new life in this community - neighborhood bike rides to expose suspicious activity, community gardens to improve health and environmental stewardship, a Relay for Life to bring the neighborhood together around a great cause, new and unique businesses (organic candy, the best coffee shop in Jax., yummy ice cream combined with financial literacy , and an awesome home-style Caribbean cafe to name a few), and a chili-cook off to have fun and support a local charity. Yes, change is challenging and is certainly not the easier path, but it's nice to be in like company. It's fun to be pioneering with other dreamers who don't mind failing to help pave the way for a better, more hope-filled future for a community.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Just beyond our busynes

Last Sunday night at The Well, we had a discussion about the role of Sabbath in the biblical story and in our lives today. Sabbath is about more than physical rest, it's about reflection and re-orienting ourselves to the ways of God. In The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan describes how, by observing Sabbath, we discover the rest of God - yes, rest from work, but also that rest of God that can only be experienced when we stop our busyness.

I am not good at Sabbath. I am often so consumed with my to-do list that instead of stopping, I move on quickly to the next thing on my agenda. This week has been a great example - I have had multiple meetings, conversations and surprise encounters. Yes, it was a busy week, but when I stopped to reflect, I was reminded of its richness and I began to feel full.

This week began with a meeting with my Clearness Committee, a group of friends that take time from their busy schedules to guide me through a discernment process. It was not an easy hour, but it brought self-awareness, focus and courage. This week also brought several occasions for me to sit with struggling Springfield neighbors who have lost hope due to financial hardship. I heard first hand of programs and people that are doing their best to find real solutions for these individuals. This week also brought an important vision team meeting, dinner and great conversation with a long-time friend, encouraging emails, and unexpected offers for help with our upcoming back-to-school event...and, it will end with a much needed day with my girls and the much anticipated homecoming of Kevin tonight! There have been low and high moments, but when I stop, I am made aware of a depth and richness that is both present in the busyness, and yet surpasses it. I sit speechless at the overwhelming sense of the divine and mysterious Presence that has sustained and stirred without my notice.

These moments of Sabbath are invaluable to us as human beings, and to us as faith communities. At The Well, we have been having potluck and Bible study on Sunday nights for 4 months now, but for the next 3 weeks we are breaking from our routine. This Sunday, we are taking a walk around the neighborhood. It's about having fun, getting to know one another, getting a little exercise (all those potlucks can take a toll) and it's also about becoming more aware of our surroundings. As we walk, we'll be challenged to become more mindful of that which we rush past every day. I hope these next few weeks will be a good starting point for considering ways to build Sabbath time into the rhythm of our life together. Walks and picnics in the park help us to see and encounter the rest of God, the part that we miss in our routine and sometimes repetitive activity, the part that lies just beyond our busyness.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just living

As I have re-familiarized myself with the religious landscape of Jacksonville, I have engaged in numerous conversations with church-goers of different denominations and affiliations. One such conversation occurred shortly after I returned to Jax. I was introduced to a woman who attends a local church, and I asked her about the congregation's involvement in social justice in the community. "What are some of the ways your congregation is meeting to the social needs of those in the community?", I naively asked. I guess I assumed that because the church was well-endowed with resources and people and was located in the center of downtown, this would be the beginning of a lengthy conversation. I was wrong. She gave me a puzzled look and responded, "We don't really do social ministry. We are more concerned with winning souls for Christ." The end. (Can I just say...awkward moment?)

I really believe that this is one of the biggest disconnects that many people today experience with the Church and with Christianity in general. We have somehow acted on a misguided belief that life is somehow lived in compartments - the physical, spiritual, emotional are separate and are to be addressed separately. One consequence of this way of thinking is fragmented living. Instead of guiding people into understanding ways to follow Christ in their day to day lives, we make Christianity about a place we go to enhance our spiritual lives - and, often there is no connection to the day to day challenges and choices that permeate our living.

I was excited to run across this video on TheOOZE.TV promoting Julie Clawson's book, Practicing Everyday Justice. She talks in the video about just living as a deeply spiritual discipline that is grounded in our desire to holistically live out the gospel in practical ways. Following Christ through just practices will impact our choices and should cause us to think about all of life in a new way (including where we shop and what we eat). Truthfully, this is much more challenging than showing up at church on Sundays for a spiritual "fix", but it certainly seems like a more true expression of our claim to be resurrection people. I'm reluctantly ordering my copy this week...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wanted: More Imagination

There is no lack of imagination in our household. Very often, blankets are turned into caves, bedrooms become classrooms and cats become targets of "kitty hunters" (our poor cat!). I have often said in all seriousness that buying our children toys really is a waste of money. I must admit that I feel like one of the unfortunate signs of growing older is a decline in imagination. Instead of seeing things as they can be, we become all too comfortable accepting things as they are (or were), and fail to challenge, risk, and do the necessary work to move toward any dream of what things can become.

As we participated in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's (CBF) 20th General Assembly gathering in Tampa last week, I was reminded of how difficult it is to imagine things differently than they have been in the past. The dinner that kicked-off our celebration of 20 years focused on CBF's dissent from the Southern Baptist Convention and the humorous (yet, evidently very painful) divisions that resulted in CBF's setting out to form a new "fellowship". While the next few days certainly took on a more positive tone, the impression of this opening event stayed with me. It bothered me that our identity seemed so centered around who we were not, and less about who we had become - the next few days did communicate in a powerful way who and what is at the heart of CBF, and for that I was so grateful.

Often, I do not think the problem lies in our not moving in the right direction, but rather in our ability to see and imagine who we are becoming and where we are headed on the journey. We are so used to the same language, jokes, explanations, and rhetoric that we miss the amazing way that God is moving and re-shaping us for God's purposes. We will miss the fullness of participating in what God is doing if we continue to see ourselves as a reaction to the past - we must see ourselves as what and who we sense God is calling us to become.

I could use a fresh dose of imagination. In church starting, in CBF, and in life, we must remember that while the past has brought us where we are, it is what lies ahead that deserves our energy, attention, courage and wisdom. In the words of Andre Gide, "People cannot discover new lands unless they have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cleaning up the neighborhood

Over the weekend, I participated in a work project in the Springfield neighborhood. A group of concerned residents who want to improve the quality of life in the community met to clean-up a row of homes that have been vacant and used for a variety of illegal activities. Several of the porches were serving as makeshift homes and there was trash, clothing and drug paraphernalia strewn about. The place was a mess before we started, but after a couple of hours, it looked like a totally different place.

As I worked, I reflected. Several thoughts and questions kept coming to mind:

  1. Why is it so much easier to clean up other people's weeds and garbage than to deal with my own?!

  2. Initially, I asked what drives a person to live in a state of such despair and hopelessness? A few minutes later, I remembered that I could be that person if I were to lose my job, my family, or my health.

  3. How can we be effective in treating the systemic issues that only perpetuate the problems we "cleaned up" today? It's the more difficult work, but it's necessary.

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster classifies service as a spiritual discipline. According to Foster,

"Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure. If we forsake all, we even have the chance of glorious martyrdom. But in service we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial."
I admit sometimes I am more attracted to the grander expressions of faith and to those things that help me escape the mundane. In service, though, I am moved to recover my place, to see my connectedness to God and other, and to humbly acknowledge what I have failed to really "see" in my frantic pace.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Journey vs. destination

Last month, our Vision Team began working on a mission statement for The Well. There were many things that we felt spoke to who we are and to who we want to become as a church. In describing the core practices that help us fulfill our mission, we described ourselves as:
"Journeying: We are fellow-travellers who are seeking to follow Christ in the midst of our daily lives. We acknowledge that none of us has arrived, that we have much to learn, and that for us, church is journey, not destination."
I think that for so many of us, church has become a place where we arrive - a building, a program, a place to have everything make sense. Church as destination makes church a one time event, an occasion, and our one opportunity to connect with God. Church as a journey turns our gatherings into stops along the way, but make the other moments on the way no less precious and no less important. Church becomes something that we are a part of, something that goes with us. We do not arrive at church, we are the church wherever we go as Christ followers.

As we traveled to Atlanta this weekend, I was reflecting on this idea. A group of us partnered to help Edgewood Church do some work around their building, and to hear more about their experience starting a church in an urban neighborhood. I knew the building needed some work, but must admit I was a little surprised at the amount of work that will need to take place. There was no flooring yet, many rooms had damaged windows, and there were several puddles of water that had come from who knows where. There was a lot to be done, but the church was not waiting for the work to be completed; they had already begun occupying the space.

The next morning as we arrived for worship, I did not notice the building's problems. What I did notice was the warm welcome, the sincerity of the worship, the genuine hospitality and the sense of community. This church was not waiting until things are all in place to begin being church, and I think I know why. For Edgewood Church, there is no need to wait because church is not about having it all together, it's about being a community of Christ followers in the midst of our messy lives. If we wait until we have the perfect building, the right words to say, until everything runs smoothly, until we have the answers and know exactly where we're headed, we miss out on the truly important ways that we are called to follow Christ together. We are so focused on arriving somewhere that we fail to see the beauty that's all around us.

I saw the beauty this weekend. We went to Atlanta to learn more about church starting, but church happened on the journey. I saw it as my sister in Christ, Faith Buan, worshiped in a way that was meaningful to her. I saw it as Nathan, one of pastors of Edgewood Church, gave a man in his congregation an opportunity earn an income. I heard it in conversations where personal stories were shared and as strangers became friends. Church is journey, not destination - we do not leave it on Sundays, it goes with us and continues to shape, challenge, encourage, and strengthen us.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reflections on Relay for Life

Last weekend, our faith community participated in the Springfield/Urban Core Relay for Life (RFL)through the American Cancer Society. I expected it to be a meaningful time of participation in an important cause, but I had no idea what was in store. As the Luminaria Chair, I spent much of the day directing people to remember their loved ones who've battled cancer by placing candle-lit bags in their honor. It was a moving experience. People could not write the name of their loved one without reflecting on the significance of their lives. There were tears shed, stories told and memories rekindled. It was as if seeing the name of that brother, sister, friend, husband, or wife opened the way to express some unspoken emotion that was just below the surface.

The occasion of RFL was an opportunity to reveal what lies just below the surface for each of us - the knowledge that we are all vulnerable to disease and death, the truth that we all walk around with unspoken pain and grief, and the reality that life is precious and to be lived to the fullest. It was also a reminder of the powerful help and healing that comes from surrounding ourselves by a community of people that believe things should be different. Together, we saw a day when there would be no more cancer-realted suffering, and it was a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

There is no way I can do this!

I remember sitting in the office of a friend in ministry six months ago when she looked me in the eye and said, "You know, Susan, there is no way you can do this...only God is capable of doing something this grand." In my cynicism (not really appreciating her direct tone) and my mounting to-do-list, I quickly moved on to the next conversation of the day, but her words lingered with me.

Last night as I arrived at my daughter's girl scout dinner carrying my half-baked mac-n-cheese, wearing stained pants, and accompanied by my pouting 7 year-old, I was reminded of her words. Just an hour before arriving at the dinner, I had realized I had underestimated the time it would take to do all I needed to do in the next hour. I rushed at a record breaking pace, throwing ingredients in a dish, even breaking a plate along the way, but somehow we managed to make it there on time. I was a mess ... and to be honest, I am a mess most days. I forget things, don't get near enough sleep, realize my children have nothing to wear to school because I have not washed clothes yet, clean well only when we're having company (sorry, honey!), and I could go on. I'm a mess.

I want to make a confession. So, here I go: There is no way I can start a church. My friend was right. I cannot pretend any longer that I have the leadership skills, the experience, the education, the creativity, the perseverance, the patience, or the ability to multi-task a billion-and-one things. If this is going to happen, I will have to get out of the way and make space for something much more powerful, much more creative, much more patient, more experienced and more persistent to bring this into being.

My friend's words have lingered because I need to remember them. I need to confess my inadequacies, to remind myself and those around me that what God wants to bring into being is far greater than our abilities. When I try to manage and manipulate it into existence, I end up exhausted and ineffective. When I remember that it is God that is capable and God that has called me, I am free to show up with my half-baked casserole and enjoy the meal anyway. It was never about me in the first place.

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thanks to the village!

I love being a mom and there are a million reasons why, but I was reminded of one this week: I love being able to watch my girls express their sense of wonder and imagination on a daily basis. I never know what they are going to do or say, which sometimes can be a scary thing! Most of the time, however, they serve to remind me of what's important and what deserves my attention.

It caught my attention that my youngest daughter has been making a collection of used name tags after our faith community gatherings each week. I'm still not sure why she does this, but she keeps the name tags posted on the car door next to her (trust me, I've asked her). I want to make all kinds of theological assumptions like...her faith community is a source of love and acceptance that she takes with her, she knows she's part of another family, etc. (I wonder where she gets her imagination!). While these may have some truth in them, I think all my daughter knows is that she loves and is loved by these people represented on her car door. I guess that's why I can't bring myself to take them down.

Part of being a mom is encouraging our children to be loved and nurtured by others. While we want to be all things to them, that is just not possible. I am so thankful that my children have been "mothered" by a variety of people as we have moved from place to place in the past several years. I am thankful for LeAnn, Rachel, Robert, Alicia, Clayton, Anna, Wade, Courtney, Brittany, Candice, Eleanor, Nancy, Milton, and the list goes on...women, men, teachers, friends, grandparents, and ministers. I am grateful that my children have experienced God's love and care in a variety of ways through a variety of people. They say it takes a village, and I believe it does - thank you, village - Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

Holy Week has been a very significant one for our new faith community. We joined St. John's Lutheran and Operation New Hope and invited the neighborhood to Community Prayers in the Park. We gathered Wed., Thurs. and Fri. mornings for a time of prayer, silence, scripture reading and reflection. It was our way of intentionally moving through this Holy Week and intentionally creating spaces where we express our common love for God and one another. It was rich in meaning and relationship.

Today is a much more quiet day and I am forced to confront the reality of my personal Lenten journey. The question that I have been focused on during Lent this year is: where is death needed in order for new life to be experienced? The painful truth is that the story of Jesus' life and ministry teaches us that in order for new life to begin (and I'm talking about new life here and now), there must be some things that are put to rest. It sounds strange to say this, but there are some areas of my life that need death. Here are a few: dwelling too much on what used to be, allowing negative thoughts/doubts about myself to keep me from taking risks, not resting enough, avoiding spending necessary time in silence and spiritual discipline, and I could go on...I think you get the point. There are places where I need to let go so that I can live more fully. That is where my Lenten journey has taken me this year.

Today is Holy Saturday and we have no events on our calendar for this day before Easter. It is traditionally meant to be a day of rest and quiet meditation, remembering the day Jesus rested in the tomb. We will not gather with our community today, but will anticipate being together to serve at the Clara White Mission in the morning. For today, though, we are left to consider a world without Christ, a world void of hope and new life...remembering all the while that "weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps. 30:5, NRSV).

Monday, April 11, 2011

The road to new life

Last night at The Well, we discussed the Gospel of John's telling of the raising of Lazarus. Unlike the other Gospels, for John, this is the climactic story that signals the end of Jesus' public ministry. His claim to be the resurrection and the life is more than some can handle, even as they watch with their own eyes the evidence of God's power at work through this miracle. As readers, we are left with the sense that instead of loosening the wrappings and allowing Lazarus to fully live again, some in the crowd would rather have kept him bound. It seems that the blindness to the light of Christ was an avoidance of the scandalous reality of God's power at work through flesh and bone in ways that no one would have imagined.

The feeling of being bound happens to us in a variety of ways. Last week, I was faced with an awkward reminder of the limitations that some still place on female ministers (some reading will be amazed that this is the first time I have felt overtly limited because of my gender). I was scheduled to officiate a funeral for a local funeral home. I did not know the family and they did not know me - they were in need of a minister to perform their dad's funeral, and I agreed. I had a lovely conversation with a female family member and I heard the stories of a man who had lived a long and full life, and who had been active in a local southern baptist congregation. The next day, I received an email from her regretfully informing me that some of the "old southern baptists" in the family could not handle having me lead the funeral.

I have to admit that I knew I was due for one of these awkward and unfortunate experiences. Having been called and affirmed into ministry through faith communities that affirmed the calls of women, I knew that one day I would be faced with a different response. I could go on about how it felt, but I think you could read Kathy Escobar's blog this week and understand my feelings pretty well. I'm not one to dwell on rejection or to let it become my platform for advocating for women in ministry (it really is the incredible stories of giftedness and calling of women in ministry that call for our advocacy!); however, I have really let this get to me.

The road to life modeled by Jesus is one full of mountains, wilderness, rejection, belief, ambiguity, and celebration. If John's climactic placement of this resurrection story is appropriate, then what finally put Jesus' life at stake was the decision to offer life to one who had been bound by death. Perhaps the most beautiful image in this passage is the role that the community plays in unbinding Lazarus. The community around Lazarus are the ones called to unloosen the wrappings so that he can live fully once again. Life is given by Christ, but the freedom to walk in that life is the gift given by the community that dares to affirm the grace of God at work in each of us. Too often we allow fear to keep people in places that are comfortable for us instead of affirming and equipping the work of new life that is leading them to new places.

Last night, we prayed that The Well would be a group of people that loosens the wrappings that keep people unable to respond to the new life they have received through Christ. Instead of trying to control. manipulate and make palpable the ways God is at work, my prayer is that we will celebrate signs of new life and that we will tear apart the wrappings that limit the amazing love, grace and power of the risen Christ.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mile Markers

Over a year ago now, I ran my first marathon. I still look back and CAN'T believe I made it. I remember trying so hard not to focus on counting down each mile for fear that I would panic when I did not reach each one as soon as expected. It was then that I learned that there is a difference between obsessing over mile markers and celebrating when you reach each one.

As I have continued on the road to beginning a new faith community, I am celebrating a couple of significant mile markers. First, I am celebrating that we have a name! Last Sunday, we decided to call ourselves The Well at Springfield. This name is not only significant in terms of our location, but also in terms of our mission. We are trying to be a place that fosters community, that welcomes all and that serves as a necessary resource for our neighborhood and city. I am so excited about how this new name will help to shape our identity and mission in the future.

Another important mile marker came last Sunday as we identified one role we see ourselves serving in a diverse and dynamic community. We want to be a faith community that helps to connect resources and people. We want to form rich partnerships. We want to promote collaboration. We want to learn from others already doing great work and to listen to the ways that God is calling and equipping us to serve alongside these groups and individuals.

I am already anticipating the next mile markers just up ahead, but for now I'm celebrating where we are on this long and windy road. Thanks be to God for giving us the courage to begin the journey, and the vision to keep on going!

Friday, March 25, 2011


It's ironic that I am finally finishing Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis just as the controversy over his new book Love Wins has gotten everyone's attention. It seems that every day I am hearing another person (or group of people) react to Bell's thoughts on reconciling God's love and God's judgment (also ironic, don't you think?) . I can't wait to read it for myself.

At the close of Velvet Elvis, Bell reflects on the early church's role in continuing the renewal (the "putting things back together") that Christ began in his time here on this earth. I was particularly challenged by these words:
"It is important to remember that we rarely find these first Christians trying to prove that the resurrection actually occurred. ...They [early Christians] understood that people are rarely persuaded by arguments, but more often by experiences. Living, breathing, flesh-and-blood experiences of the resurrection community. They saw it as their responsibility to put Jesus' message on display. To the outside world, it was less about proving and more about inviting people to experience this community of Jesus' followers for themselves." (Velvet Elvis, 64)
Those early Christians certainly lived in a different time and place, but I imagine that we faced some of the same challenges. There were competing theologies, cultural oppositions, and enormous obstacles to the reception of their message. What challenges me about these early believers is the evidence that their focus was not on arguing or persuasion, but rather was on living as a resurrection community - on letting the life of Christ determine how they lived together and how they invited others to join in new life.

All of the debates over Bell's new book have really gotten people's attention, but I can't help but wonder how many of the arguments will just end up being distractions (although, I do think many transformative conversations will be had over this book!). As Christ-followers, when will we get it? Arguing about whose right or wrong, in or out, can be great distractions from living out the life and ministry of the One who came to put things back together. What would it look like if we followed the way of these early believers and were ruthlessly dedicated to putting things back as they should be? How much better would the invitation be heard and received?

May it be so in our lives as Christ-followers and in our communities who gather in Christ's name!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here we go (again)!

On Sunday night, eighteen of us gathered to participate in our newly forming faith community's first gathering. We met for dinner, prayer and scripture exploration. We talked, we shared concerns, we ate, we listened, we watched as children shared their artistic interpretations of the text. There were also some significant questions asked as we sat at the table together...What drew you to this neighborhood? Where do we go from here? How do we invite people into something that has no definite shape yet? There was enthusiasm mixed with uncertainty.

Tonight at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, we gathered to begin another journey. We heard scripture, we sat in silence, we sang, we left with black crosses drawn on our foreheads. There were significant questions asked as we worshiped together...What will be given up in order to make room for new life to take root? How do we remember that we are dust and that to dust we will return? Where do we go from here? There was anticipation mixed with uncertainty.

While we who confess Christ acknowledge our belief in God's ultimate love and care, the ways of God remain a mystery. On Lenten journeys, new church ventures and life's many ebbs and flows, uncertainties abound. Sometimes the best we can do is to live fully into each moment of our lives and to trust that God is with us as we journey on. And, if we are lucky, we can also recognize that all around us are fellow travellers - - and we can begin asking our questions together - -and we can listen, and learn and encourage and wait together in anticipation mixed with uncertainty, in enthusiasm mixed with doubt until we watch as something new and needed begins to emerge.

I hope I am ready for what lies ahead because here we go (again)!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


No situation is ever as cut and dry as I try to make it. I like to categorize and classify. I like to know what to call things, people and places. I want to know how to think about them - that place is a dump, they are close-minded, this situation is hopeless. It seems so much easier to live in the black and white than to experience the gray, and to make room for a new perspective.

As some excitement is building about our first community gathering on March 6th, I received an email from a friend this week. She had visited the diner where we plan to host our Sunday gatherings, and enjoyed a good conversation with the waitress. In her email to me she wrote:
"God is good, and I am seeing things that have been happening for almost the past two years for me, seem to have a purpose."

Open encounters with others do that to us. Insights like these seldom happen in isolation. Our faith calls for connections, for collisions you might even call them. Faith in God and God's Spirit calls for openness and attnetiveness to how God might stir us to see and experience life differently - through relationships, circumstances, scripture, successses, failures, nature, etc. As we come together as a faith community and listen to one another and really see each other, our old definitions and classifications are broken down. We learn things about others, about ourselves, and about our Creator.

A faith community is a place where deep connections are made, but those relationships are more than just friendships; they are intentional encounters where we are vulnerable to having our story intersect with another's story - - and where we find our place in God's story.

Our "connecting" place will be Carl's Main Street Restaurant. My hunch is that rich relationships will be made there as we eat, share, reflect and explore scripture. My prayer is that as we connect, we will not only be shaped by one another's stories, but that we will be shaped into the image of Christ - One who lived in a way that valued relationships and who allowed them to be avenues for knowing and sharing the life-giving love of God.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Looking back and forward

Last night, a group of new and old friends shared a meal together in our home. This was more than a meal though, it was the beginnings of a new community. There were introductions, conversations, ideas shared, connections made, and imaginations sparked about the whats, whens and hows of this new faith community. There was energy and excitement as we sensed the emergence of something meaningful and necessary.

As I sat back for a moment and looked around, there was an awareness of something stirring in my spirit, a reminder perhaps. When I was ordained 3 years ago at Peachtree Baptist Church, I was blessed by a congregation of friends and family who affirmed my call to ministry. Those gathered blessed me by their presence, their participation and their tender words spoken during the laying on of hands. Truly, it was a gift I will cherish forever. At the close of the service, this benediction was read from the 3rd chapter of Ephesians:
"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Last night as I looked around the room, I heard these words again, this time resounding in my spirit. I was profoundly aware of something greater at work, something capable of drawing a group of strangers together to imagine a new faith community. While I too often obsess about the details and the decisions of each step, I was reminded of God's power at work to do something far greater than what I could even ask or imagine.

I cannot predict what this new church will look like; yet, I am reassured that no matter where the journey takes us, it will not be me that gets us there. It will be the God who gives us the ability to dream and works with and through us to bring about God's kingdom on earth. I am thankful that it is not me, but God's Spirit at work, that will ultimately shape the life of this newly forming church. Thanks be to God for what has already begun, and for what will be!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A community of misfits

Perhaps some of the most positive and powerful experiences of love are those in which love does not come easily. In our culture, it is so common to speak of love that feels good, that is comfortable, and that comes quite naturally. That love certainly has its place, but there is another kind of love, one that if we are fortunate, we experience in a community of those that we at first glance feel are nothing like us.

I have often talked about my hope for this new faith community to be identified by its diversity. This word is used so often today and sometimes it is over-used and under-appreciated. Truthfully, when we are gathered together in any form, we are a diverse group in terms of life experiences, gender, occupation, and personality. Yet, when we add in race, economic status, sexual orientation, cultural differences, and other identifiers, we find a whole other layer of difference. We find that our common ground is no longer that which is comfortable and natural and we are forced to look for something deeper. I also believe that we are forced to go to deeper places. The small talk is more difficult to come by and we are forced to look the other in the eye, to acknowledge their uniqueness, to confront our differences and wrong stereotypes, and to ask the deeper questions.

When I speak of my hopes for diversity in our emerging faith community, it is for many reasons. Yes, it reflects the changing world we live in and yes, it is a way to continue bridging our socio-economic-racial gaps, but there is more. I cherish the richness of a diverse faith community because we experience deeper love when we are cast into a community of those who seem to have little in common with us. In this community of misfits, we find that while it does not come easily, the way is opened for us to experience the kind of love that can bring hope, change and new life.

As our family watched Because of Winn-Dixie this weekend, I witnessed a powerful image of this type of community (i'm pretty sure my children rolled their eyes when i felt the need to point this out). In her desperation to make friends in a new hometown, a preacher's daughter raised by her divorced father invites her new acquaintances to a party. As the celebration finally takes place, gathered together are the the ex-con, the widow, the blind outcast, the grumpy landlord, the depressed preacher, and the mischievous school boys. It seemed the only thing they had in common was the invitation they each received to attend this gathering. When they finally come together, there is a transformation that takes place. The outcast is restored to community, the ex-con receives affirmation of his gifts, the landlord softens his harsh tone, the depressed preacher and his daughter find renewed relationship and the two boys put their energy to positive use. There is no false impression that they have reached some final utopia, but rather that in this community they have found what they did not even know they were looking for.

No, love does not come easily in a community of misfits, but the challenges are worth the undeniable sense that love can cross boundaries and find us where and when we least expect it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

God and a people on the move

I have added the logo "Friend of Missional" to the blog - you can click on the logo to go directly to the site for a more detailed description. This is just one of many places where a conversation about what it means to be a mission-centered church is happening. While words and images can be used to talk about "missional", for me the conversation is the reflection of a growing set of deeper understandings about the church AND about what it means to be a Christ-follower. Over the coming weeks, I would like to share some of these understandings, and would love to hear your thoughts.

We cannot talk about our mission as Christ-followers without first talking about God. Creator, Initiator, Redeemer, Peace, Father, Mother - - all of these names for God imply a God of action. The story of scripture further reveals a God who shows compassion, delivers judgment, changes course, journeys with people, and one who shows up in a variety of ways in the lives of all kinds of people. God is a Being of action.

One of the results to being open to the missional conversation is my growing understanding of the way in which God continues to be a God of action and intervention today. While the Bible is a revelation of God, God's story is not finally or completely contained in scripture. God is not finished shaping, calling, creating, renewing and transforming. Therefore, we as God's followers are called to stay open and attentive to how God is acting today. As the church, we are called to be a collection of Christ-followers seeking to respond to God's activity and to move along with God.

Part of my vision for church planting is to foster a space where we can discern together how God is still acting today. Church should never be about delivering a fixed set of doctrines, but about listening, learning and growing together. I want us to engage in conversation. Where do we hear, feel and see God acting our world, in our community, and in our individual lives? How should we respond? Instead of being an institution of religion, how can we be a people moving with God?

I pray that whatever shape this new church takes it will honor the God of action that is revealed in scripture and that continues to be revealed today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A little reassurance

I have really enjoyed Seth Godin's insights on leadership, creativity and change in recent days. His blog post for today gets right to the point. Read it here, and be encouraged as I was to appreciate the necessary struggle that comes with real change. It can be easy to change the words, but far more difficult to change our attitudes, actions, programs and practices.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We need a name!

I had several friends give me reasons why they do not blog when I announced my plan to start blogging about my church starting venture. The number one reason was, of course, that they knew they would not keep up. Well, now I get it - - with all of the other emails, phone calls, FB conversations and in-person meetings, it can get difficult to keep up with another correspondence, but I'm back at it...

As this new year began, I did a little reflecting on the journey thus far. There has certainly been a mixture of excitement, fear, anticipation, wonder and doubt. There have been times when I've wondered what in the world prompted me to say 'yes' to this new direction, and other times when I can't imagine myself anywhere else doing anything else in the world. I've been surprised on more than one occasion, sometimes by a new friendship, other times by an opportunity for ministry that came to me in the midst of trying to begin a place for ministry. It has been chaotic, unstructured and overwhelming, yet also beautiful to watch something take shape that I could not possibly have formed with my own hands.

Perhaps of all the lessons learned, I am most moved by the reminder of God's power to create something out of nothing. I do not always sense God's presence or God's guidance, but looking back, I can see evidence of it. For that, I am so grateful.

As I look ahead, I am anticipating moving forward in a couple of ways. Tomorrow, I begin looking at a few options for meeting spaces for weekly gatherings that will begin on Sunday evening, March 6th. These gatherings for prayer, study, conversation and community mission will also serve as a crucial time of identity formation for a core group of individuals and families. However, before we can invite others to join us, we need more than just an identity, we need a name! We need a name that is not only meaningful to a dynamic and economically/racially diverse neighborhood in transition, but one that also reflects a faith community committed to:

• Offering radical love and hospitality to all people in the name of Christ.
• Being a voice for unity among a community fragmented by race and economic divisions.
• Engaging in worship, dialogue, study, fellowship and service.
• Facilitating the formation of authentic relationships
• Proclaiming the good news of God’s story and discovering together how God’s story continues today.
• Partnering with others in our community to bring about hope and transformation by serving our neighbors in need.

I'm excited about the name we will come up with, and I'd love to hear your suggestions. So, send them my way!

I really have no idea what this year will bring, but just as I can look back and see evidence of God's care in the past, I am trusting this year will be no different. I pray that whatever this year has in store for you, there will be assurance of God's continued love and care.

Thanks for following along!