A Church without Walls: E-pistle 08.04.11

A Church without Walls: E-pistle 08.04.11

When the church is cautious or tight… shut,
can God’s promise be freely shared?
In a closet, a timid community may gather, but
how Christ’s calling and witness are impaired!

Open the doors and windows wide;
That God’s spare welcome and strength
may flow generously, unimpeded outside–
neighbors, enemies… no longer at arms’ length.

Service in the world, not brick and mortar space.
…Interactions where love takes hold;
people touched, turned, saved by grace
for God leaves no one in the cold or out of the fold.

Tearing down walls. ‘us from them’ separating,
moving outward, worshipers follow their God-lover,
an antidote to isolation, violence and hating.
Lord, the distances with God we can cover!

Peace to those we draw near
Peace be with each we pass-by
Peace dispelling injustice and fear
God’s Peace through us from low to on high.

Out of the church, may we follow God’s movement.
That the sacred may spread o’er all the earth.
loving the lost and straightening what’s bent,
blessing that began at Jesus’ birth.

Ok, I’m no poet! (That’s why the e-pistle is late!) But I was inspired by a Norman Goreham hymn, “Open Doors,” dedicated to the North Lowestoft United Reformed Church’s enacting a new open door policy (I’m guessing akin to our ONA commitment). I found Goreham’s hymn in Maren Tirabassi and Kathy Eddy’s book, “Gifts in Open Hands” (for which I wrote one of the reviews on the back cover!).

But I rewrote the hymn: opening windows and doors… staying put church… isn’t enough! We can no longer count on people finding their way in. We have to stop waiting for God to send back a crowd. God’s waiting on us. We’re called to carry God’s love out to people in the world. To re-present Christ.

I write, more or less, on the second anniversary of my serving with you. And two-thirds of our way through the Covenant Ministry. (You might want to read the “Plan for Pastoral Leadership after the Covenant” that Bob Schneider and the Elders have prepared.) We’ve learned much, changed and grown. We’ve improved at getting God’s word out.

But we still have a way to go. It’s a big world out there. We’ve bargained to take on a lot of hurt by promising to walk with Jesus.

But we’re headed in the right direction:

~ Someone asked this week, “When can we have another outdoor worship service?”

~The Revitalization Task Force is planning an alternative Sunday where a group would go off-site to serve.

~We’re invited to a gathering of Center City churches and synagogues involved in POWER, so we can build relationships beyond our four walls.

~The new challenge of funding the shelter with less federal money is also pushing us to look outward, to other people who might want to help with the service we do.

It’s the right direction, folks. With God, we find ourselves able to get further and further from home and still never get lost. Be of good courage and trust.

See you in church,

Michael

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