Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fall Church Come Back

I remember my first summer as pastor of Soldotna UMC in 1992 as I experienced the summer exodus.  What do you mean we're not going to have Sunday School, Bible Study, or choir in worship?  We don't get to take a vacation from being a disciple of Jesus!  I was a lot more legalistic back in those days.  In the 20 years since then God has taught me much about grace.  God seemed to say to me, "Just relax and enjoy this season of light and outdoor beauty."  I learned that worship was not lessened.  It often moved outdoors!

And now we find ourselves in that wonderful season of coming back.  School has begun.  Students and teachers have been blessed on Sunday mornings in our 29 churches.  Summer schedules will soon give way to busy fall/winter schedules.  So much needs to be done by our lay and clergy leaders.  But it is a good busyness.  God is present in the creative imaginations of new Sunday School teachers who are working even now to prepare learning environments for children to learn about Jesus.  God is working in the plans of youth leaders who are thinking of ways for our teens to walk with God and do acts of social justice.  God's Spirit is stirring the minds of adults who will engage holy scripture with other disciples of Christ in a few weeks.

As we all experience the fall church come back season let us remember to include others who need a deeper connection with God.  Let's take some time to think about who we can invite to church this fall.  It's a great time to begin or renew a faith journey!

Grace Always,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Missional Community Follow Up

Good news!  The people at the Academy for Missional Wisdom have agreed to our request to change the program for Alaskan United Methodists.  Instead of two years at $4000 it will now cost $2000 per person excluding travel. This is because those of us in the first cohort will provide the second year of coaching.  The Academy for Missional Wisdom will provide the first year's content which are the biblical and theological foundations for missional communities. This will involve online courses of six weeks each with short reflection papers, readings, and online forums.

The next Alaska cohort will begin in January, 2013.  We need at least five lay and clergy for this to happen.  To date we know of two clergy who have already registered.  To learn more about this program check out this video.

Bishop Hagiya has encouraged us to experiment and this is one of those endeavors.  We have a vision of lay and clergy working together to serve Alaskans with practical Christianity.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gluten Free Communion For All?

 Here's my question.  Why do we have one communion station with wheat bread with gluten and another for those who are gluten intolerant?  Practice reflects theology.  What theological principles are we communicating by offering two stations to serve two groups of people?  This holy sacrament needs to nourish all of God's people.  I know of one United Methodist who brings his own gluten free wafer to the table which is fine.  But why can't we all partake of gluten free bread?  It should not affect the experience of this holy sacrament.  And it would demonstrate our solidarity with others and symbolically show that we do all partake of the one bread of Life.

I encourage a conversation on this question.  Maybe there is something I am not seeing.  Perhaps some of our Alaska churches will conduct an experiment and try gluten free bread for all.  If you are interested in learning more about this issue I refer you to this article which also includes three recipes for gluten free communion bread.


Grace Always,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What Is a Missional Community?

Missional Communities are are groups of 20 to 50 or more people who are united, through  community, around a common service and witness to a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. With a strong value on life together, the group has the expressed intention of seeing those they impact choose to start following Jesus through this more flexible and locally incarnated expression of the church. The result will often be that the group will grow and ultimately multiply into further Missional Communities. Missional Communities are most often networked within a larger church community. These mid-sized communities, led by laity, are lightweight and low maintenance and most often meet 3-4 times a month in their missional context.

Seven Alaska UM's are being trained by the Academy for Missional Wisdom (link to website:  http://www.missionalwisdom.com/Missional_Wisdom_Foundation/Academy.html).  If we can find 5 new people willing to receive the training which will be a year of online classes and a year of coaching and supervision Dr. Elaine Heath will begin this second cohort this fall.  I will be seeking 100% funding for this initiative from the conference.

If you or someone in your church would like to know more about missional communities and how they can complement the attractional church model we currently use there are two webinars next week.  One is Tuesday, Aug. 14 at 2 PM.  The other is Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 7 PM.  Both are identical and will last no more than 45 minutes.  If you would like to attend just contact me or Crystal to receive an invitation and instructions on how to participate.

I am convinced that we need to train leaders who will be in relationship with people where they are as we seek to offer them Christ.  Incarnational grace.  I invite you to pray with me about the vital mission God is asking us to carry forth.

Grace Always,