September 2015 – Why church?

As I write, just back from a Sunday away (having been part of a family baptism in another Methodist church) – listening to our most recent Sunday worship services in both Bourne and Cataumet online, and reading over the words of those who have just spoken in both churches this past Sunday – I’m feeling blessed as I’m reminded of just how much church means for many of us. (This is no surprise. But it’s wonderful to hear it expressed from the heart, in each person’s own words.)

In Cataumet, several shared reflections on the theme of What does church mean to me? (Many thanks to John White, lead organizer on this topic, and Cathy George, Arne and Vicki Carr, and Pat Stewart who also spoke.) In Bourne, Susan Goux’s sermon title was Why we come to church, and why many do not come to church, and why it matters. Questions that we can fruitfully consider for a long time.

What does church mean for us? Why do we come to church? Surely we all have different answers, yet just as surely there are also many things we hold in common…

What church means and why church matters changes for many of us over the course of our lives… Even during the course of a week or a day I may give a different answer… Certainly church for me is always about the presence of God in the lives of God’s people. But that can be a bit like saying ‘always the same… and always changing.’

Last Sunday at the baptism of our grand-niece, we and all the church were happy, singing praise songs, with one-year-old Emerie herself splashing enthusiastically in the baptismal font with her hands, trying to squirm out of dad’s arms into the water. We felt joy in God’s presence all day, as we worshiped and feasted together afterwards with church members, family and friends…

The next day I attended the funeral of a friend who just died from breast cancer, leaving her pastor husband, two young children, a large extended family and many close friends all deeply grieving. Now I was at an almost opposite end of the emotional spectrum from the previous day. Yet God and the church were just as certainly present, as people comforted each other and prayed for the family of the departed. Many committed to help provide for the needs of Diana’s and Marlin’s children. The Holy Spirit was powerfully present.

Home again now, resuming familiar routines, I’ve been reflecting on my own life’s journey, and remembering some of the many ways in which God has used the church, with all its diversity of people with many and varied gifts and graces, to shape and re-shape my life.

As I get a bit older my life seems to come up for more frequent times of review and reflection. And in just the course of this short summer, I’ve been part of a wedding, a baptism, and four memorial services. Most of all, I’ve been part of the daily life of God’s people in this parish. Every Sunday we worship, pray, sing, share together in the life of the church. And every other day of the week we carry on the life of the church in innumerable ways that enrich the life of the church…and often also the life of the community around us…

One morning this week as I was sipping coffee on the porch about 7, here was one of our Trustees, talking with contractors about work needing to be done. A little while later several other church members were in the office working together on a project. Then here was another member, cleaning the church. Then our minister of road-side signs was here, putting up another hope-filled message. Calls and emails come in from parishioners throughout the day, reminding me – someone is visiting someone who needs a visit… Some parishioners are working at the Thrift Shop. Some are helping someone else learn about our church… Many are praying…

This is what being church every day means for me. And this is why I feel blessed to be your pastor. Looking back over this now-already-nearly-completed-summer, I’m thanking God for all of you who regularly make time to be the church together… and help make the church look more like Jesus.

Many thanks to our Parish Outreach Committee, which hosted and produced successful benefit dinners in July and August, one each in Cataumet and Bourne, for the Methodist campaign Imagine No Malaria, raising over $1200, helping save 120 lives. Thanks to all who helped cook, serve, publicize, clean up, and otherwise make it all happen.

Thanks very much to John Read, Pat Stewart and all who helped produce our annual community Hymn Sing at Cataumet in early August. Thanks to Joanne and Richard Jensen for hosting their annual pool party for the Bourne church, also in August.

Thanks to all our Trustees for all they do, taking care of our buildings and grounds, and thanks all who participate in our clean-up days. Thanks to our Church Councils and Finance Committees, keeping track of where we are now and helping to map the way forward.

Thanks to all who served on our search committee (Al and Judy Chamillard, Dottie Cotter, Joan Davis, Tom Goux, Anne Marie Seitzinger, Connie Odom Soper) as Bourne UMC went about hiring our new Choir Director, Kari Fietek. Please join me in making Kari welcome and helping her get to know our church.

Thanks more than words can express to Richard Jensen, Bourne’s Choir Director for the past eleven years. Richard has requested that we not have any official observances, but we all know that we owe Richard a profound debt of love and gratitude for all his service. We have been deeply blessed. We pray many blessings to Richard, Joanne, and all their family. And we look forward to hearing him sing…many more times…

Thanks to all who have helped with Children’s Time this summer – John White, Tom Spence, and Cathy George in Cataumet; Dottie Cotter, Liz McClintock, and Isaac (Ryong Jae) Jung in Bourne. Thanks to all who are preparing for Sunday School to restart in September…

Thanks to Dottie Cotter, Susan Goux, Rebecca Hewett, Richard Jensen, Ryong Jae (Isaac) Jung, and Tom Spence for preaching this year. And now I’m recalling dozens of others who should also be thanked, and realizing any time I make lists of people in our parish to thank I’m bound to forget more than a few, because you all contribute in so many ways… So once again, please accept my prayers, and forgive all I forget to say…(and all I say I shouldn’t have said…) Which brings me back to what does church mean to me and why does church matter to me… And sharing my thoughts with you makes it easier to remember my best answer:

Church means being the people of God together, and church matters here and now, mostly because God is here, and you are here. And we are here together.

Please join me in this prayer:

May our gracious and loving God continue to bless you and enrich you with every good gift, so that together we may truly be the people of God, doing the work of God, through the grace of God, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, our Savior, and Friend. Amen.

Slow Church

Here’s a quote from the back of the book, Slow Church, which I hope many of us will read and discuss together: “Fast food. Fast cars. Fast and furious. Fast forward. Fast . . . church?…

“In the beginning, the church ate together, traveled together and shared in all facets of life. Centered as they were on Jesus, these seemingly mundane activities took on their own significance in the mission of God. In Slow Church, Chris Smith and John Pattison invite us to leave franchise faith behind and enter into the ecology, economy and ethics of the kingdom of God, where people know each other well and love one another as Christ loved the church.”

Slow Church, written by two lay members of two small but fruitful churches, is one of only a few books I know of that shows deep understanding and appreciation for the real-life dynamics of smaller churches. Church is meant to be local, rooted and nurtured in the communities and neighborhoods we live in. Slow Church calls us into best practices that have held up over the ages – eating, talking, and working together; learning to be good neighbors in the ways that Jesus teaches.

Please let me know if you will participate in a slow (one-chapter-a-month) reading and discussion of this book. (Hopefully in a potluck setting over meals.) I plan to place a group order. The book can also be ordered on-line.

Pastor Tim