When the Titans are gathered in Valhalla,

Silence will sing a soulful song.

 

When the grain fields and battlefields lie fallow,

a Nightingale will hum a mournful tune.

 

When earth’s grime and pollution foul the senses,

a scent of Hope will waft on the air.

 

When Crime, Cruelty and Injustice

infiltrate society and personal space,

Compassionate Resistance will rise from

the rich soil of Humanity and Dignity.

 

When Villains and Demagogues debunk fair play,

Heroes will demonstrate a kinder, gentler, wholesome way.

 

When?

Why not now?

 

 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

Hi everyone!  We have so much to share!  But we will keep this short and sweet! 

Early September, leading up to the start of our fall cohort, we launched a series of conversations called Future and Faith.  This series consisted of three conversations: A theologian, a practitioner and some of our own spiritual entrepreneurs.  Everyone is having conversations about the future of faith.  We are having them, we know you’re having them and we wanted to have them together. 

We are launching our next series on Future and Faith November 13th.  It is a FREE ONLINE event.  All you have to do is sign up!  You will receive a link to the first conversation an hour before it drops on November 13th.  The same will happen over the next two days with the other two conversations.  Theologian and Philosopher John Caputo will be our first conversation.  We are so excited and honored to be doing this with him! 

Our second conversation will be with our friends over at the CenterForm incubator, John and Kathryn Heinz.  These conversations are going to be amazing and we would love for you to join us!  Click here to sign up for free! 

Future and faith (1).png

You can also get linked to our earlier Future and Faith event and re-watch our conversations with Peter Rollins, our theologian and Sue Phillips from the How We Gather incubator.  We have created a page just for the PSWR so you will be able to sign up for Future and Faith but also find out about what else we are up to. 

In other news we had a great Regional Assembly!  We absolutely loved connecting with so many of you and hearing about what you are currently doing in your ministries and in your lives! 

Looking forward to talking with you all again soon! 
Maria French and the Hatchery LA Team

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Rev. Don Dewey and Rev. Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

 

We are honored to once again stand before you as your Regional Ministers and bring the State of the Region Address to this 2018 Regional Assembly. As you know, this will be our last Regional Assembly with you as your Co-Regional Ministers. Our hearts are full of gratitude for each of you. What a beautiful, amazing and blessed journey it has been these past 11 years! 

Words cannot express how enriching, blessed and life changing these years have been for us. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

There is so much to say in 25 minutes of all that has been going on in our Region since we were last together. So we will talk fast! The bottom line is, we are in a really good place as a Region.

The church as we once knew it, continues to change; the Region too has changed significantly in the last 11 years. When we took office in the fall of 2007 there were 144 congregations listed in our directory. Since then, 16 have closed their visible ministry, some have left our Disciple family and some congregations in formation didn’t make it.

Today we have 110 congregations. However given the overall health of our Disciples denomination our Region is now one of the strongest and healthiest. So here’s what we have done together.

At beginning of our ministry, with leaders from around the Region, we identified 4 goals to guide our Regional ministry.

·     To be one church

·     To develop vital, healthy, growing congregations

·     To be a missional church and

·     To be a well organized and administered Region

 

Goal 1: To be one church

Our first goal was to be one church. In a world and society that seems to be more and more divided we have worked hard to find ways to hold on to our Disciple commitment to Christian unity without succumbing to simple uniformity. We have held tightly to our Disciple call to be a “movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.”  

Recognizing the challenge and blessing of serving one of the more diverse Regions, it was important that we both honor and celebrate our diversity by being a more inclusive Regional family. To help accomplish this we increased staff time, responsibilities and support for our racial ethnic communities to further strengthen these important parts of our Regional family. 

We also moved our NAPAD, Hispanic and African-American staff from a role as liaisons to Associate Regional Ministers, acknowledging the significant work being done on behalf of the whole church. 

We meet together regularly as a Regional Ministry team to plan, dream, and resource our pastors and congregations. We take time to pray with and for one another.

Thanks to these committed servants we have created important ministry documents in multiple languages as well Anti-Racism training, Boundary Training and History and Polity training in multiple languages with a particular focus on cultural sensitivity. 

This means hours of work but it also means drawing us closer together as one church. 

We have increased the cross-cultural opportunities for our youth and young adults and we have strengthened our Disciple women’s ministry.

As a Regional Board, we have made as a priority to seek to have at least 50% of our Board and Executive committee served by persons of color. 

We believe that God calls us to be an inclusive community, and thus making sure all voices are heard around the table, not only in participation but also in the decision-making and in the sharing of resources for the whole church.

We have seen significant growth among our Hispanic ministries. Two of our largest congregations, Casa de Oracion San Diego and Primera Iglesia Cristiana de Vista, are excellent examples of dynamic ministries. In addition, pastors and laypersons from our Convención continue to provide leadership for our National Hispanic ministry. Recently, the Pacific Southwest Region purchased the De Luz Retreat Center in Fallbrook following a proposal to our Regional Board from the pastors and congregations in District 8. This facility is intended to serve the congregations of District 8 as well as congregations throughout the Region, with a primarily focus on our Hispanic churches whose ministries have a strong weekend retreat component. The District 8 churches have formed an oversight committee along with a Regional representative and will support the management and care of the retreat center.

This week Primera Iglesia Cristiana de Vista launched a capital campaign to remodel and expand their facility which has been used for retreats that will now be at the new De Luz site, to make room for the growing congregation. They currently average 350 in worship on Sundays with three services.  

Our NAPAD ministry has been focused on the education of our ministers and congregations as well as youth and young adults. Our NAPAD community is also growing with more and more ministers and congregations broadening their understanding of who we are as Disciples and becoming  more involved in the ministries of the regional and general church. Since 2015, a NAPAD Youth and Young Adult Winter Retreat, held at Loch Leven, has been getting stronger and has created significant growth in our NAPAD ministries. 

Our African American ministries have been strengthened by various seminars and educational opportunities as well, like “Spirit Reliant” and visitations from notable Disciples like Dr. Frank Thomas and our General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens. We have seen increased participation from our African American community on Regional Board, Regional Assemblies, Regional Convocation and in the National Convocation.

And we have seen an increasein participation from our African American Youth and Young Adults in our Unite and YIM programs. 

All of this helps us accomplish our goal to serve Gods mission in the world as one church!

 

Goal 2: Developing vital, healthy, growing congregations 

Recognizing that the ministry of our local congregations is at the core of what we do, we paid particular attention to our second goal of developing vital, healthy, growing congregations.

This has primarily been accomplished through 3 specific areas of our regional ministry:

·     New Church Development

·     Transformation and

·     Leadership

We believe that the Region is first and foremost about congregations! Everything from helping congregations find pastoral leadership, to supporting young people attending camps and conferences, and providing trainings for laity and pastors to do more effective ministry. 


NEW CHURCH

Through our New Church Development team, numerous congregations have come to affiliate with us or as congregations in formation. We have now had over a dozen of these new congregations reach full standing as a Disciple congregation. Currently our New Church Development team is working with 20 under care congregations.

Today we celebrate with Pastor Rogelio Martinez and the members of Casa de Oracion of Fullerton the accomplishment of becoming another one of our full standing Disciple congregations! Congratulations!

Our New Church team, through a generous gift from the Region, just launched three new congregations here in the PSWR: 

·     Beloved in San Diego with Dale Suggs; 

·     Life Ministries in Los Angeles with Ronnie Taylor and

·     Missiongathering in Pasadena with Rich McCullen. 

 

Looking ahead, the New Church team already has five new potential church planters ready to launch in early 2019. 

Since we took office, New Church Development has supported over 70 pastors and lay people to participate in the Leadership Academy sponsored by Hope Partnership and 8 just this year. In addition, with the unanimous support of our Regional Board, we developed a new Regional ministry, focused on developing creative and innovated ways to do ministry and support pastors and congregations seeking to reach the next generations. This is our Hatchery ministry. Like any new start up, it has gone through some changes and iterations but is now expanding its work through online courses and on the ground support of pastors in our Region, as we try and move sustainably and viably into the 21stCentury.       

 

TRANSFORMATION

Our Transformation team over the last 11 years has been providing resources and trainings for many of our existing congregations to support and empower them in reimagining their ministry in new ways. 

Again, the Region has supported congregations participating in Hope Partnerships New Beginnings, Mission Pathways, The Journey and Epiphany programs for transformation.

Our Transformation team also has had members trained in Appreciative Inquiry and they have worked with several congregations in our Region to explore ways these congregations can improve and grow. The Transformation team also provides small grants to congregations seeking to launch new, and creative ministries. Some of those have been with:

Mission Hills CC – with a Community Garden, Food Truck Night, and Film Screening to connect with their neighborhood and community.

First Christian Church of Burbank – to Participate in Mission Pathways and to strategically look at ways to reach their community.

East Whittier Christian Church – to redesign their worship space to increase member's sense of identity in the space, and the replacement of stolen worship musical instruments.

Downey Memorial Christian Church also used a Transformation grant to assist them in developing Women's workshops for both the church and community.
 

LEADERSHIP

Another source of support for pastors and congregations has been through the work of our Leadership team. 

One of the significant ministries the Leadership team has supported, in partnership with DSF, is the CMS (Certificate of Ministry Studies) program, overseen by Pastor Xose Escamilla. 

It is an excellent program that offers seminary level courses in theology, pastoral care, growth strategies and more. 

To date, over 100 pastors and lay people have benefitted from this program.

The Leadership team also administers leadership funds that come into the Region to support continuing education opportunities for pastors seeking to strengthen and expand their ministry skills and knowledge. 

In addition they have supported scholarships for seminary students and help underwrite costs for pastoral retreats.

Our Regions Women’s Ministries, directed by Pastor Tanya Lopez, also provides leadership growth for our congregations. Many women in the Region, including our staff, attended a conference in April of Disciple women held in Phoenix called Wild Women of the West. The women that attended felt welcomed, encouraged, and connected to one another and the ministry of our Disciple Women. They recognized that they are lifelines of ministry and of justice work, of healing and of venturing out in new ways to be the church. In a world and time where women are increasingly silenced and not given the same respect or place at the table, The Wild Women of the West was a reminder that women show up for each other, women pray for each other, women teach each other, women lift one another up, women empower each other, women believe in each other and women are called to serve and to go out into the world to make change happen. The next WOW event will be held in June of 2020 in Las Vegas.

As further support of our goal to develop vital, healthy, growing congregations; a new proposal was brought to the Regional Board to launch a program for supporting pastors and congregations called ACTS 2. The Acts 2 Project’s purpose was to bring together four key areas of Regional ministry – New Church Development, Transformation, Leadership Development and the Hatchery to work more collaboratively in identifying and undergirding pastors and congregations with a passion to enlarge and grow their ministry. 

We are currently working with 7 pastors and congregations to provide additional support and training to strengthen their ministry for growth and vitality.

 

LOCH LEVEN

Loch Leven is probably our most significant regional asset and a wonderful setting for faith formation, leadership training, community building and reconnecting with God. Our Loch Leven camp has been though a lot of changes in the past few years. 

With the completion of the Campbell Lodge Renovation, the camp is now able to house more people as well as different kinds of groups, like family camps, congregational retreats, Encuentos, as well as our summer and winter camping programs for faith formation. Loch Leven is also a resource for the ecumenical community and the local community in the mountains. 

We had 179 campers camp this 2018 season with 32 churches represented and 66 volunteers. We also had 53 campers and volunteers from Project Impact and 81 from All Peoples/camp Joe Ide. 

A few years ago we added a new camp for preschoolers and their children, called Wee Camp and this year we are adding another new camp for all ages so brothers and sisters or cousins can go to camp together.

Much of the work that gets done by the staff at the camp you never see, whether it is the facility work, the work on the land, the new programs for ecology, or the preparations for hospitality. But you can feel the good work of our staff when you visit the camp. 

Sloan Hamilton has been one of our best gifts at Loch Leven for the past 8 years, and we are so very sad to share that she and her husband Joseph will be moving on in the spring to a new part of their life in Oregon. (Read her farewell letter here.) The search for a new director will begin next month and there will be a good-bye party in the spring; but for now lets please give her a show of support and appreciation. 

 

Goal 3: To be a missional church

Missional is a way of living, not an affiliation or activity.

To think missionally means seeing all life as a way to be engaged with the mission of God in the world. One of the significant ways this has recently been done in the Region is through the work of our Associate Regional Minister Rev. B.J. Barlow and his work with our youth and young adults. Through the development of programs like UNITE and our YOUTH IMMERSION ministry and the expansion of Youth Leadership Team they have helped strengthen this goal in fresh and exciting ways, teaching us what it means to be global partners in ministry both locally and around the world.

I think it is important to highlight the work they have done to bring together a wide representation of young people from all across our region in youth and young adult ministries: through leadership, cultural awareness development, the empowering of young voices, and the cultivation of passionate Christian faith acted out in ministries that bring reconciliation. 

We witnessed their leadership in this morning’s worship service – designed, organized, and led by our young people. We see it in a growing young adults ministry –developing a planning committee to oversee and implement young adult programming. And we see it in the programing of UNITE – an inter-cultural leadership conference that is a foretaste of the faith movement of young people for our whole church.

Notable achievements/developments/events:

•    Bratkovich Award – 2017 Disciples Peace Fellowship

•    $30,000 from the Oreon E Scott Foundation

•    Partnerships with Global Ministries, Disciples Home Mission, and other General Church Units

•    Global Service Projects – Puerto Rico, Tijuana, South Korea, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Israel-Palestine

•    Better Together – Congregational Consultation for communities motivated to engage the contributions of all ages in the work of Christ

Looking to the future they will be engaged in Partnership with Duke Divinity’s Youth Academy 2019.

We have also expanded our missional vision to include support of work being done on our behalf through our congregation’s support of Disciple Mission Funding. 

Through our Global Mission ministry, pastors and laypersons have traveled to Israel-Palestine, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, Korea and other international places to deepen awareness and build bridges of understanding and partnership  

We are especially proud and blessed as a Region to support the wonderful work of our own Paul Turner in the Congo; one of our longest Disciples of Christ mission work with over 650,000 Disciples!

Through a newly emerging partnership with our sisters and brothers of the PROK (Presbyterian Republic of Korea) our pastors and youth and young adults have developed strong relationships and a wider understanding of God’s mission in the world. 

We are pleased to welcome six of our PROK pastors with us at this Assembly.

 

Goal 4: To be a well organized and administered Region.

We would not be able to do all the things necessary to oversee and care for this Region if it were not for our amazing and gifted staff – including holding this Assembly! Many of them work tirelessly behind the scenes keeping communications flowing, managing the business, finances record keeping and legal responsibilities involved for a complex Region. We are indebted to their service and commitment!

The PSWR has invested in two significant technological initiatives in the past two years. First, an aging 1990’s era church data management system was replaced with state-of-the-art cloud-based accounting and integrated membership systems. As the Region’s finances became more complicated, the old system was not capable of providing the reports necessary for management and financial reporting. The new system will keep abreast of new technological developments and grow as the Region grows. The new system will allow us to keep track of a larger number of fixed assets as well as document the review and approval processes.

Secondly, the impending move to Fullerton provided an opportunity to make the leap forward in “digitalizing” the Region’s records. Many file cabinets of archived materials have been scanned and appropriately discarded. In the future, our institutional memory will be reliant on our ability to capture incoming information as soon as possible ensuring that it will be retrievable for future decision makers.

As the Regional staff has prepared for a significant transition in executive leadership, we have considered it an opportunity to document policies and procedures and ensure that our institutional memory keeps up with the technology preparing for the next 12 years.  

 

FINANCES 

Our Goal as we took office was to have all of our operations expenses covered by investment income and use all of our Disciple Mission giving that comes from congregations, to fund congregational mission though grants to congregations in the Region. We aren’t quite there yet but we now have significant investments with Christian Church Foundation that support the ongoing ministry of the Region.  

Our Permanent Funds team carefully monitors these investments. Some of our funds have gone into expanding our staff, to further provide new regional programming and increase support for our racial ethnic ministries. 

In addition, funds have been used to support the growth and development of new congregations and the renovation of several Regionally owned properties including our new ministry center here. So yes, the Region still needs your DMF giving. But more importantly, the whole church needs your DMF giving; it supports the general church’s ministries including education and global missions in over 70 countries, Week of Compassion and Immigration Ministry, and so much more. 

Many of our congregations are in transition as yours might be, and there are lots of different models for congregations that have been in decline for a while to make decisions about the future. Pasadena Christian church closed in June and turned its assets over the Region and we are placing a new church start in the facility. Sunset Park in Santa Monica merged with Gateway CC and the property was sold and the funds used for building and ministry support for the new merged congregation. 

El Monte CC closed and merged with Temple City and the Temple City facility was sold and the funds are also used for building and ministry support for the new merged congregation. The remainder of the funds from these two sold properties were distributed through the template process with the majority funding the new retreat center, and the 3 newly launched new congregations. 

Another model is Del Haven CC that sold their property and relocated and are now re-imagining their ministry as The Haven. They are currently looking for a more long-term space for their congregation. 

The regional process for funds that come into the region is to identify what they will be used for through the Regional Board’s template process before we ever touch the funds. We look at what we need for long-term sustainability and what we want to use for short-term ministry needs. Some of those funds over the last few years have been used for the renovation of regionally owned properties where we are placing new congregations; like Baldwin Park and Covina, Rialto, and others as well as the remodel of or new Regional Ministry Center.

 

Legacy

This Region has been greatly blessed through legacy giving from congregations and saints who through their vision and generosity have made possible continued growth into the future for our Regional ministry.

There’s so much more ministry going on in this very active and busy Region:

·     All our summer & winter camps

·     MLK events

·     Retreats

·     Participation in the Poor Peoples campaign

·     Ordinations and Installations of new pastors

·     Over 70 candidates under care of the COM 

·     All the work going on through our Units

·     Our Convención and Convocations

·     All the work of our Regional Board and Committees

·     And so much more in each of our local congregations!

 

What do we hope to accomplish in this next year?

We don’t know all that God will do in this Region but we have one more year to encourage, support, resource and empower you as pastors and congregations for continued ministry. 

Part of our work for this next year will be to set this region up for our successor and for the 2020’s so you are able to do new ministry a with new Regional Minister in exciting ways and with the tools you will need for continuing to grow this Region. 

 

We also will…

·     Settle into new offices that will serve the region for the next 20-30 years.

·     We will increase the training opportunities for congregation through our new Acts 2 program and by continuing the support of our new church ministry.

·     We will complete the financial and technological updates for the next administration 

·     And hopefully start at least 5 new congregations in 2019

·     We will continue to support the justice ministries of the passionate people in this Region

·     And continue to grow, support and strengthen our racial ethnic congregations and pastors.

 

There are exciting and challenging days ahead, but we believe we as a Region and members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are well positioned to meet the needs of those in our communities looking to find a spiritual home and discover the love and grace we know in Jesus Christ. Yes, we will need COURAGE, but we know we do not travel alone in this awesome and amazing journey of faith as God’s people. 

Thank you for the privilege of being partners with you.

Let us close with this poem used by slain priest Archbishop Oscar Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. 
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificententerprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way ofsaying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, anopportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. 

 

THANK YOU!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

You may remember the Lilac Fire that burned through Rancho Monserate off Highway 395, just west of Interstate 15 and South State Route 76 in December 2017. This property dates back to a Mexican land grant 1846, when Governor Pio Pico gave his brother-in-law 13,332 acres in what would become the Bonsall and Fallbrook townships. Part of this land was turned into a mobile-home park in the early 1970s and a decade later was one of the first in the state to convert from rental spaces to private ownership. In the 2017 Lilac Fire, 75 manufactured homes were burned to the ground in this mobile-home park, which was half of the total of all the structures destroyed in the 4,100-acre blaze. Before insurance could pay for a new home to be built and brought to this site, Rancho Monserate had to repair infrastructure damage by the fire. Most of that has been done but at this time to complete the “recovery” which began almost 10 months ago the landscaping has to be completed.

Cal Pac United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has taken the lead on this recovery effort. Today they are requesting our help in completing this project so the next five residents can move into their homes. All that is left to do is finishing the landscaping: Site 1 needs about 1,000 sqft of week screen and about 700 sqft of rock spread; Site 2 needs about 800 sqft of weed screen and rock spread; Site 3 needs about 200 sqft of weed screen, rock spread and about 60 interlocking blocks installed; Sites 4 & 5 need some clean-up of existing pavers and 600-700 sqft of weed screen and rock. Finally there is also some planting of Ivy on the hillsides that need to be done. 

These would be great projects for PSWR Mission Teams from local congregations. You could select a single site or partner with another congregation to complete a project. All materials will be provided. For more details contact Karl Ports, UMCOR, 619-823-8424, kports@cox.net

Norman Williams, Coordinator
PRSW Disaster Recovery Ministry

909-289-6525
ChNorm@msn.com

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Revs. Don Dewey and Susan Gonzales Dewey

Summer has officially ended and the Fall Season is upon us. Though we loved the warm summer months, this past one had a lot of particularly hot days and so a slightly cooler temperature is a nice welcome.

Summers are often filled with travels, vacations, days at the beach and backyard BBQ’s. We had all of those and more. It was a time to participate in our National Racial Ethnic ministries gatherings, from Phoenix Arizona to Birmingham, Alabama; as well as the College of Regional Ministers. We both were able to take a couple weeks of our Sabbatical time, Susan in July and Don later in August. 

Summer was also a time to catch up on some chores around the house and what we call “puttering” jobs. We planted a garden, laid some tile, and did some “winterizing” (whatever that means in Southern California!) of trees and roses. It was also a good time to catch up on reading that seems to get put on the back burner to often.

Some on our summer reading list were: Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward”; Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God”; Rachel Held Evan’s “Inspired”; Sandhya Jha’s “Pre-Post-Racial America”; Walter Brueggemann’s “A Gospel of Hope”; Rev. Dr. William Barber’s “The Third Reconstruction”; and Diana Butler Bass’s “Christianity for the Rest of Us.”

Though vastly different in many ways, we found these particular books to be both inspiring and challenging as I reflect on the church today. We are reminded of author Phyllis Tickle, who a few years ago described our time as a once every 500 year turnover of the world as we know it. Or perhaps as that 60’s theologian Bob Dylan said, “The Times, They Are a Changin”.

Diana Butler Bass describes in her book “Christianity for the Rest of Us”, a three-year journey she took traveling around the U.S. visiting mainline churches of various denominations that were demonstrating some significant turn-arounds in their ministry. These were congregations that were at one time suffering from decline and aging that we see in so many churches of all stripes and were now showing positive signs of growth, vitality and life anew.

Each chapter focuses on a specific area of these churches ministry that seemed to contribute to this new emergence of life and hopefulness. Areas like: hospitality, discernment, healing, diversity, justice and worship. She explores how some of these congregations have reimagined these areas that she called “signposts of renewal.”

It’s important to note that there is no magic formula for turning a church around or experiencing significant transformation. It is also important to say that none of the congregations she names in her book did this overnight and with no struggle! For most of them it was several years of careful and prayerful experimenting, testing, failing and persevering before they began to see some positive results. One last thing to note, none of these churches made these transformations because they had a “Super-star” pastor. Rather it was a deep commitment by both the pastor and the congregation to fully engage in the struggle and transformation of their ministry on behalf of the Gospel through spiritual disciplines.

We want to lift up two or three of these “signposts” as significant for any congregation today seeking to connect authentically with your community. 

The first is Hospitality. Christianity today, like our ancestors, is a faith of travelers and pilgrims on a way. Hospitality then is at the very heart of the Christian life. However, Bass reminds us, “true Christian hospitality is not a recruitment strategy designed to manipulate strangers into church membership. Rather, it is a central practice of the Christian faith.”

Authentic hospitality is when we begin to see every person, no matter what, as a sister or brother in Christ. Bass says, “Christians welcome strangers as we ourselves have been welcomed into God through the love of Jesus Christ.” Sound familiar? This is not just “friendliness” but rather radical hospitality! See Matthew 25.

Another significant signpost is Discernment, listening for truth. This perhaps is one of the most important things a congregation could do. Bass writes that a fundament truth for us as Christians is to truly know “that God loves us and calls us by name; that God asks us to participate in the unfolding of divine beauty.”In other words, God wants us to do something!

Spending time learning to discern God’s call upon our lives and what we are to do with what God has gifted us with is central to our life of faith. Next to hospitality, this spiritual practice was one found in almost every congregation Bass interviewed and that significantly added to their vitality and growth.

One last one we will lift up and that is Testimony. This practice of giving “witness” or to “testify” to the love and grace of Jesus Christ is found in almost every book in the New Testament. If you take a look at the book of Acts one might say that the church itself started by the apostle Peter’s testimony on the day of Pentecost! 

Every life tells a story and we each can offer a witness to what God through Christ has done in our lives. One of the many powerful experiences in my life from years of camp was sitting around a campfire or in a family group as young people shared their stories of how God brought healing, hope, love and grace into their lives. 

We have been in many churches where a lay person has shared a faith story at the communion table or as an offering meditation that brought me to tears and renewed my faith in our gracious God. These testimonies not only tell who we are but also who we are becoming because of the love and grace we have experienced in Jesus Christ! As one person said, “they tell of finding meaning, finding unique selves, and finding God in a confusing and chaotic world.”

Congregations that are thriving again are those who are re-engaging again the ancient spiritual practices of hospitality, discernment, testimony, prayer, healing, the study of scripture and more. As we move into this Fall Season and in preparation for our Regional Assembly, we want to encourage us all to live into our theme of “COURAGE”. Why? Because these are troubling times, these are transitioning times for the church and we will need real courage to hold fast to our faith and to one another. This will, we believe, mean deeply rooting ourselves in God and the way of Jesus.

We pray that you will find renewal in your own faith life and that of your church as you actively participate in the spiritual disciplines of our faith.

Together on the journey,

Don and Susan
Your Regional Ministers

 

 

 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt