We’re blending families at church. Two congregations that have collectively spent three hundred people and ministry years are coming together to become something new. The process has been amazing grace.
We talk about being the One Body of Christ all of the time in the church. It’s one of those phrases that get tossed off as an “of course”. Of course we are one. BUT, we like the way we do things and we like the way we know each other and we like the way our sanctuary looks and we like the treats we serve at coffee and changing these things that give us a sense of ground in a shifting day and age seems too much to risk.
But risk we will. Edgewater Emmauel will hold its last service of worship in its sanctuary on September 13th of this year. Richfield UMC will hold its last service of worship in its sanctuary on September 13th of this year. And then, on the 20th of September, we will join together as a new Body: Richfield UMC, composed of folk from EEUMC and RUMC and anywhere else God sees fit to garner partners in ministry. Some of us will be in a sanctuary that may look and feel familiar, but we have to know this: we are a new creation. We’ll learn from each other and we will change and grow and explore and blunder and wonder about how it is that we have been so blessed.
We’re blessed by a Spirit that leads us into new celebrations and expressions of what it is to be community in Christ. Blending families (this I know) is a work that is challenging. But done mindfully and prayerfully and with a willingness to just plain laugh at the foibles of being human, it is Spirit work of immense power.
We gather at the common table of grace. We trust that God is in our midst. We are blessed.
Words have great power. Sometimes that power scares us, because words peel back layers we have wrapped around the quiver that is our hearts.
I run into this a lot as a clergy woman, this word aversion. At a former church I served, the word “struggle” sent a shiver of distaste up the spines of some of our leaders. We wanted to use the word in our mission statement. It seemed important that our church claim our participation in the struggle against the death-dealing amnesia that can be our cultural reality. The amnesia would have us to believe that poverty and isms and injustices of the endless stripes that exist are somehow beyond the notice of nice Christian folk. To acknowledge that living the teachings of Jesus is struggle in our world means that we might have to engage, get dirty and roughed up in the living of the gospel message. Well, of course.
The lament goes up often: why is it that the church seems to be increasingly sidelined in our civic life? Why is it that our young-ins seem to scorn an institution that is built upon the teachings of a man who was radically inclusive and insistently justice seeking? How is it that in a time when loneliness and a sense of powerlessness grip our communal being the movement of Jesus is deemed somehow irrelevant?
It’s about words. The words we are afraid will somehow offend or challenge or confront. Words that would stake our claim upon the challenging and cosmos healing vision of Jesus. Words that would call us to claim that systems of oppression, even when they facilitate our middle class comfort, those systems of oppression must be named and claimed as foe.
Why? Because of a word that we hold to: gospel. The good news. The good news to the poor and the outcast and the addicted and the lonely and the frightened and the hopefilled and the beaten and the powerful. The message of relief to those burdened and awakening to those whose hearts have been too long wrapped.
Our hearts need to quiver.