Monday, August 31, 2015

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column + New Sermon Series!

September 2015: "Doing The Same Things Differently: A Report From General Assembly"

Dear Church, This past July, I had the joy of representing our congregation at the General Assembly of our Disciples of Christ denomination in Columbus, Ohio. I returned too late in the month to include a report for my August column, so here I am telling you all about it in September!

General Assembly serves several functions: a means for voting representatives (all ordained clergy plus selected non-clergy) to vote on business items for the denomination--much like how we do so at our congregation's annual general meeting every January, an opportunity to present reports from our missionaries in the field or from some of our new church plants, and sometimes simply a chance to catch up with old friends far-flung across the church!

One of the most crucial things that General Assembly provides, though, is the opportunity for pastors to engage in continuing education in order to keep our skills current and up-to-date. As the book of Proverbs states, just as iron sharpens iron, so too does one person sharpen another, and at GA, I had the opportunity to learn from lectures from Disciples seminary professors Frank and Joyce Thomas, United Methodist pastor Adam Hamilton, and even a TED talk from my colleague here in the Northwest region, Liv Gibbons over at Northwest United Protestant Church in Richland.

This GA, though, may be one of the last on its current biannual schedule. For as long as I have been an ordained Disciples pastor (which really isn't very long at all!), the GA has convened every two years, and there was much discussion in Columbus about moving it to every three years in order to make it more cost-efficient for both the denomination and its pastors--and the congregations who send their pastors.

Personally, I think it is a perfectly fine idea, because it will still allow for all of the great aspects of GA I just described to continue, but to do so while adjusting to the reality that, thanks to things like social media and online classes, General Assembly doesn't need to offer some of the services it does as frequently as every two years.

What this means is that we, as a denomination, are learning how to do some of the same things differently. Rather than dump the proverbial baby with the bathwater, we have begun discussing how to make better and more effective this very helpful and meaningful institution of the General Assembly that we already have.

And that is a mentality that *must* filter down into our congregations--including our own here in Longview. We have to always be willing to see where the Holy Spirit is nudging us to make the ways we have of doing things work in better and sometimes newer ways. A church that is stuck in a rut is just like a wheel stuck in a rut--it can only go in one of two directions, and eventually, that direction will need to change.

I continue to hope and pray that we keep our strength as a church that has allowed us to be moved in different directions by the spirit, and as we forge onward to navigate what direction our lovely and storied church community takes together, it remains my privilege to be your pastor throughout your faith journey here at FCC!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

New sermon series: "From 40 Days to 84 Years: Waiting on God's Word"

September will be a rarity for us compared to recent months--a month devoted entirely to just one sermon series! On August 30, we began this new series with the story of Abraham waiting until he was 75 before figuring so directly into the story of God's word--the Bible--and now, we get to hear from four more people who likewise had to wait many the cases of Moses and Anna, until they were in their eighties! In a time when instant gratification is increasingly the norm, it means that move at higher and higher speeds. Sometimes, that's actually a really, really good thing, like enabling a faster response to a friend or family member in crisis. But it also warps our sense of perspective when we do have to wait for things--and I include myself among such whippersnappers--and especially when we think about just how long people sometimes wait to hear God clearly in their lives. So come out on Sunday and hear the stories of several heroes and heroines in the Bible and of how God ended up working in their lives for the better, even when it took many years!

I'll see you Sunday,
Pastor Eric

August 30: "Abraham: 75 Years," Genesis 12:1-9
September 6: “Ezekiel: 30 Years," Ezekiel 1:1-4
September 13: “Moses: 80 Years," Exodus 3:1-6, 4:10-12
September 20: “Aeneas: 8 Years,” Acts 9:31-35
September 27: “Anna: 84 Years,” Luke 2:22-24, 36-38
October 4: "Jesus: 40 Days," Luke 4:1-13

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