Wonderful things are happening today: the sun is shining, the windows are open; birds sing everywhere. I can hear the sounds of water running down the street. Everything is awash with freshness and fragrance. There’s a muddy, rich earthy aroma to the world, and my cats are sitting in the window, noses in the air, whiskers and nostrils twitching, taking in the “news.” The storm is over; the church is drying out after a flood in the undercroft. Our cellar is damp, but not overwhelmed.
I’ve been wrestling with possibilites this last year, as I think about what’s next for our church. We’ve finished a major project and opened up the building. We still have to finance the mortgage, but I have every confidence, based on the history of this congregation that we will do that.
One of the issues to address that has emerged in our discussions on Council is the question of communication–how to get the message of who we are and what we are up to out to our members and friends, and to neighbors who might be interested in St. Paul. That issue of communication is one of the reasons I’ve taken on this penitential blog, and explored e-communications so much this season. It’s been something of an adventure to wander the vast and glittering caverns of the internet.
Friends who use the web routinely have recommended resources. One of these comes from Pastor Keith Anderson at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Woburn. He passed on a resource from Duke Divinity School, called “Faith and Leadership: Where Christian Leaders Reflect, Connect and Learn.” They publish an on-line newsletter full of provocative articles about religious life, including studies of congregational life.
Today, one of those stood out as a sign, for me at least , of future possibilites for us. Pastor Louis Weeks, a president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, conducted research on “vibrant” congregations. He discovered that “humility” was a significant characteristic of the healthy and growing churches he studied. In his interviews with members of vibrant churches, he found that while they were flourishing and sturdy, they always knew there was more to learn and to do as disciples of Jesus. He writes:
Every church leader I interviewed described his or her congregation’s accomplishments modestly. And every one of them was eager to learn from other congregations, just as I had learned from their excellent organization.
As I thought about it later, I realized that pastors, staff members and lay leaders who are modest about their accomplishments and eager to learn from others are following the admonitions of Peter: “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8). Moreover, all these desired attributes of a Christian community go together, each reinforcing and strengthening the other: unity, mutual love and respect, sympathy for one another, tenderness in relationships and humility.
The title of the article is “Healthy Congregations and Humility in Action” and you can read the rest of it here
What I especially like about this article is its discussion of the way councils, church leaders, and members all work together as spiritual companions, how each member of these congregations understands that “everyone and every part of their church needed to grow in Christ.” And that doesn’t just happen randomly. It takes prayer, planning, and careful action, with great concern and love for each person.
St. Paul Lutheran church has that gift of humility, and it has a steady faithful ministry here on Cape Ann. If you are reading this blog, please read Pastor Weeks’ article. It will inspire you. In your prayers during Lent, lift up our church. What do you think God is up to here? Where should we go next? How is God leading us? Pray on it.
Blessings and peace, your Pastor.