and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14
In a recent UCC Stillspeaking daily devotional, Tony Robinson wrote, "We often think of the Christian faith as our human search for God, our feeble attempt to get close to God. The Bible tells a different story . . . the story of the God who keeps showing up, intruding, refusing to leave us alone, searching for us. A God who won't take 'no' for an answer. Just when we thought we were safe in some gated community (there are a lot of different kinds of gates and fences), God moves into the neighborhood, pitching her tent on the corner, down the hall, or next door. 'The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.'"
As I look back on the past year, God does seem to have kept showing up, searching for us, with new ideas of who we are meant to be, full of grace and truth. Mike and I are just completing our first full year of shared ministry, and I believe that has given new energy to our life at Emmanuel. It certainly has given new life to my ministry! The "brainstorming" sessions we had during the year opened up lots of fresh ideas and possibilities, including our plan for leaving our usual space on each 5th Sunday of the month in 2016 as a way to expand both our ministries and our horizons.
The Word does seem to be dwelling among us, and you appear to be experiencing that, too. I find it reflected in the comments you wrote this fall in response to our question, "What is it about Emmanuel, 'A Sojourner's Home,' that motivates you to support it?" Your comments included your appreciation for the music, the intellectual stimulation of our discussion hours, how varying perspectives are respected and encouraged, the enthusiasm and commitment and excitement of being a covenant participant, the ease and friendliness of being church without the rigidness of typical "church," the freedom and varieties of the worship experience, the open-mindedness and kindness of the conversations we have together, how it is a safe space to ask questions and grow spiritually and pursue our faith journeys, and how we care about others and generously give to help them. As one person summed it up, "This is a place – a space – a community where I feed my need to belong... where I can be refreshed and challenged and comforted and encouraged." These are all signs to me that the Word has been showing up, intruding, refusing to leave us alone, constantly searching for us, and not taking "no" for an answer! I wonder what else God has in store for us in 2016?
With you in the journey, Pastor Kay
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home
for a land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1
If you had told me a little over five years ago that I would become co-pastor of a congregation in 2015, I almost certainly would have laughed and said, “I don’t think so.” Although I found my 32 years of ministry generally satisfying and enjoyable, I was ready to move on, to follow other passions, and – above all – to relax!
Then we found Emmanuel, and everything changed. The free spirit and energy of this small group of people enticed us and we quickly found ourselves wanting to be deeply involved in the life of this group. I discovered that, in fact, I did not want to be an anonymous or fringe participant in the church, but an active and fully committed contributor in the life and ministry of an engaged and engaging congregation.
When Pastor Kay first mentioned the idea of becoming co-pastor with her, I wasn’t ready to do so. But eventually it seemed like a good idea in order to give her more flexibility with her time and to keep me involved in the church. It has been a year unlike any of my previous years in ministry.
Along the way, there have been many significant moments and thoughts, but the one that continues to frame this new experience for me is the concept of “making the road by walking.” From the time when God called Abram to leave everything familiar for an unknown future, it has been key for people of faith to be willing to move ahead into uncertain futures with the confidence and hope of God’s Spirit lighting the way. Many congregations have lost sight of that key and have been willing to sit back and enjoy “the way it’s always been,” for as long as that might last. But Emmanuel rediscovered the importance of the journey and the challenge of moving ahead into the unknown, trusting in God’s blessings to sustain you.
As I said recently, this is the year that will test us as much as any since the decision was made to restart the congregation in 2004. If we have been tempted to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our previous labors (our reserve funds), the days when we can do so might soon end. There is a very small part of me that says – well, then I could just go back to being fully retired. But I think you know that this is not at all what I want! I don’t know where else I could find what Emmanuel offers – the challenge, the energy, the commitment, and the freedom to seek God and a future more in line with God’s vision for this wild and wonderful life. I am ready to do whatever it takes to keep the journey going and I hope you are too.
Making the road together with you, Pastor Mike