“Checking-in” – November 2013

Our annual church Charge Conference (a Methodist term for annual meeting) will be Monday, November 18 at the Bourne church, starting with a potluck supper at 5:30, meeting to begin at 6:30. All are invited and strongly encouraged to attend if at all possible.

Charge Conference is a time for taking stock together of where we’ve been during the year past, and where we hope to be heading in the year ahead. Our District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Seok Hwan Hong, will share a brief meditation from scripture and Methodist tradition, we’ll watch a video from our Bishop Suda Devadhar, and we’ll hear a few very brief reports. We won’t spend much time on numbers or detailed reports. We will spend time talking about the two questions asked of us by our Bishop and District Superintend:

1) If your church has one goal that is practical, concrete, and tangible next year, what would it be? And –

2) Does your congregation have Spiritual Disciplines to be transformed by the Spirit?

We have been running these questions in our Worship Bulletins every week for more than a month now, because we want to be prepared to share our understanding of where we are in our practice of spiritual disciplines, and be ready to talk about our top priorities in practical terms. Charge Conference is about becoming more consciously focused in our priorities.

We can celebrate the spiritual disciplines we are already embracing and practicing. In Church Council meetings and other informal discussions we’ve been recognizing and naming our main practical congregational spiritual practices (disciplines) as prayer, worship, and service – the essential spiritual disciples from which all other spiritual practices flow…

We are people of prayer. Many pray regularly, deeply, from the heart, engaging with the mind, remembering all the local body of Christ daily in prayer. One parishioner told me recently that it now takes her 45 minutes every morning to pray for the church. (Which indeed is about how long it should take…) As I write this article the Red Sox have just won the World Series last night. And I’m struck by news articles this morning that mention the Sox path from last to first place in a year, as characterized by team work – the whole team together practicing the details of the game with great care and persistence.  For example yesterday the whole team showed up at Fenway Park for practice seven hours before game time… (and after the game the team and fans together stayed on the field til past 3 in the morning celebrating together…)

Prayer is our most essential spiritual practice. When we give our every issue, struggle, question and joy to God in prayer, we are doing the practice that leads to transformation.

Likewise worship. When we enter into worship with prayer as the body of Christ together, and carry the spirit of worship with us back into the community and the world around us when Sunday worship’s over, our congregational prayers go with us, taking on tangible form, as we serve God and neighbor together through the week…

We’ve begun reaching consensus as a Parish, I believe, on the priority of engaging the community around us in deeper dialogue about community issues and our roles as people of faith. We recognize the brokeness of the world around us. We know our need of God. We know our need to engage with others for the healing and transformation of community. We have begun talking about (among other things) community listening sessions, and expanded community service, perhaps to include other churches in these efforts…

And we’re already practicing these disciplines as we plan ahead. People have been coming into our bible study groups from serving in the pumpkin patch, sometimes coming in from chilly late afternoon darkness, cheerfully talking about who we’ve met and talked with, the stories we’ve heard, the deep needs and high hopes we’ve been graced to hear of… Last night another member spoke about being out shopping during the day and another shopper complaining about her day. “It’s my birthday, and here I am shopping…” Our member wished her happy birthday and asked about her day, and the woman said her husband had just left her and she was really miserable… She burst into tears. Our member quietly prayed for her and counseled her to please attend the church that the woman mentioned as her local congregation, and they ended up with hugs and prayers. We followed up with more prayers later that evening. And this kind of encounter happens pretty much every week, probably many times most weeks…

The spiritual revival that God is leading us into has already begun. I don’t expect this revival to be quite as obviously dramatic as the Red Sox going from last to first in the course of one year – but I do think there is an analogy of sorts with the way the Red Sox have won the World Series this year with a team without any super-stars (no Red Sox batter hit even 30 home runs this year, no Red Sox pitcher won more than 15 games this year) – and the way God is preparing us for deeper and yet-more-amazing-grace as we present ourselves as living sacrifice for transformation (Romans 12:1-2). As the Red Sox became a team this year that played together unselfishly and did many, many small things consistently well – so too, I believe, our Bourne-Cataumet Parish is getting readier and readier to be part of God’s prolonged and enduring revival of faith and grace in this place.

Ministry is always happening, wherever we are, whenever we’re looking to God, and staying in prayerful conversation with God – whenever, wherever we are carrying on daily life together, seeking always to be aware of the presence of God in all we do…

And thanks be to God, we never do God’s work alone. We have each other’s help, always – and, as John Wesley said – “Best of all, God is always with us…”

Thanks again very much, for all you do for God and neighbor.

The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus be with you always,

Pastor Tim Atwater