THE CONNECTION

 

January 2023 Connection

“For Auld Lang Syne and Days to Come”

In May of 2013, the American adaptation of the television series, The Office, aired its series finale which was cleverly titled, “Finale.” During that heart-string-pulling episode, the character Andy Bernard, played by actor, Ed Helms, reflected on the many memories of his years at the Scranton, PA branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company (true fans would demand that I mention the fictional Sabre Electronics division to that title).  In that moment of sentimentality, Andy says: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” 

I was thinking about those words the other day as I was surrendering to the speed at which the 2023 new year seems to be approaching (though, it will have arrived by the time you read this).  Andy’s reflection actually got me thinking a bit about how we can approach the new year, specifically this time around the sun.  What if, instead of approaching this year as if it is just another year – a year of our lives, a year of our careers, a year of our relationships…perhaps a year of our ministries? – what if we approached it as THEE year of our ministry as church?  THEE year of our lives as family people, relational people, even working people.  In other words, what might happen if we approach 2023 as if it was already a year that we’d remember with excitement for all our lives to come? 

To do this, we have to first accept a few nuances:

  1. It is safe to say that 2023 will not be perfect! We need to anticipate that there will be moments of disappointment and dissatisfaction during the year.  There will also be moments of heartbreak and seemingly failure.  This is part of life and is unavoidable.  That said, how we approach those inevitable challenges makes all the difference!  If we go into January 1st expecting 2023 to be a fruitful and special year in our lives, then we can approach difficulties with a reminder within ourselves that God has already overcome anything that seems insurmountable.  The grief we’ll face, the loss we’ll experience – it doesn’t get to define us!  Perhaps we can reflect on these words from the Gospel of John,

“In the world you have distress.

But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”

-John 16:33 (CEB)

  1. We have to put some energy into making it true! Like with planning our New Year’s resolutions, we sometimes forget that nothing magical happens as we hang our new calendars on the wall or as we watch the ball drop in New York City.  If I resolve to eat better, I have to actually change my grocery shopping habits.  The calendar won’t step in to start making me kale salads, much as I might want it to.  And yet, we mark time by dates and years, and so we can certainly enter 2023 with a desire to make it special.  But then we have to join forces with God to begin doing something to make 2023 special and memorable for all the right reasons.  IF this is the year that we’re going to see ministry at GBUMC flourish, then we all have to, not only get excited about that, but we have to start making it happen! 
 
  1. 2020-2022 weren’t all bad. Were they difficult years for a variety of reasons?  Absolutely!  Were there moments when we faced fear and uncertainty?  Absolutely!  Did we grow in areas during that time?  We sure did!  Did we learn as we experienced life in new ways?  Of course!  Like #1, we will face challenges in the year to come.  We should expect that!  But, we can’t forget that we’ve faced challenges in the years gone by. 

 

I look forward to all that we will be as a church in 2023.  I do believe it will be a year we will look back on with memories of growth, new beginnings, and fruitful ministries!  Do you believe it?  Will you help to make it so?  If so, take a seat at God’s ever-growing table with me and all others, and lets begin to feast!!!

For auld lang syne and for days to come,

Pastor Brian.
 

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December 2022 Connection

“A Nativity’s Purpose”

I have no doubt that, by the time you’re reading this, nativity scenes will be set out on front lawns, placed on fireplace mantles, and just about anywhere else Christmas decorations find themselves. In fact, even as I’m writing this article in mid-November, I’ve already spotted some nativity scenes while out and about
(we’ll leave the “it’s too soon for Christmas” argument for another time). We all know what we’ll find in a nativity scene: Mary, Joseph, some shepherds, an angel, 3 magi/kings/wisemen, perhaps some sheep and a camel, and of course Jesus.
 
Now, not to be a bah humbug, but it’s probably worth noting that we don’t find that exact nativity when we look in scripture. I know, I know…I’ve ruined Christmas! But, let’s be honest. When we look at the Gospels, we only find the Christmas story in two of them: Matthew and Luke. Luke tells us about the birth,
the angel’s announcement to the shepherds in the nearby countryside, and then…well, that’s about it. Matthew is kind enough to include the visit of the magi, but says nothing about shepherds. So, how did we arrive at our favorite nativity scenes at Christmas time? We simply bring the two Gospels – Matthew
and Luke – together and provide a few embellishments. Anything wrong with this? Not at all! Is it accurate? Well…not really.
 
You see, we still have the timeline to deal with. Luke’s shepherds are nearby, and while we don’t know how quickly they ran to the manger, we get the sense that it was pretty soon after Jesus was born. Jesus probably still had that newborn baby glow, and Mary and Joseph were still probably trying to figure out
how they might ever sleep again. Coincidently, probably not the best time for shepherds and sheep to show up, but hey! It could always be worse, right!? But, how about Matthew’s magi. Speculation is that they (not necessarily three of them, by the way) probably arrived a good bit after Jesus birth. Herod’s order to kill all children in the region 2 years old and younger (Matthew 2:16) suggests that Jesus may have been as old as a toddler by the time the magi greeted him and the holy family. Frankincense, gold and myrrh – every toddler’s favorite gifts!
 
Now, before you’re tempted to call for my retraction of this nativity heresy, or begin demanding the accuracy of every nativity scene you come across, let me offer this assurance. The accuracy and historicity of a nativity is not and has never been the main point of the Christmas decoration. I’d argue that the nativity scenes we find at Christmastime are intended to remind us of something far more important than historical accuracy and fact. They’re there to remind us that people showed up. People showed up to the manger, not just to see what had happened, but to prophecy God’s truth, once again, to the holy family. The magi, the shepherds –even the sheep, camels and others – showed up at the manger in order to proclaim to Mary and Joseph that their child was truly the incarnation of God. Now, certainly they already knew this, right!? Gabriel told Mary as much, and Joseph had a dream during which he was similarly informed. So why the messengers? I believe that they came with such a witness to the earthly
parents of Jesus because for the next 30 years or so, Mary and Joseph would be tasked with raising this
infant child to be the Son of God. They’d teach him how to pray, how to love, how to worship, and how to
care for neighbor. They’d model forgiveness for him, and remind him that he is loved. Could it be that
Mary and Joseph simply needed some encouragement, and so God sent these unlikely prophets to them
in order to confirm a divine truth? I suspect that’s the case!
 
This Advent, we prepare our hearts to journey toward the manger where we know what we’ll find! We’ve
rehearsed this journey for generations, and so we know what will be there. Though, don’t we still need
prophets of some sort to announce and witness to us what we’ve come across? To declare to us the full
divinity of the child born on Christmas? Don’t we need to, not only see Jesus, but hear the reminder that
he came to us as Emmanuel, God with us, that we might discover love, grace, and new life?
 
This Advent and Christmas, my prayer is that we might be that witness for one another and that we might
share that same confirmation with others who need to hear it. This Advent and Christmastime, consider
these questions: for whom can you be shepherd, magi, or angel? And who can be that for you?
 
Peace,
Pastor Brian
 
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November 2022 Connection

Bridging Divides and Setting Tables

 
As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call
righteous people, but sinners.”
-Matthew 9:10-13 (CEB)
 
What have you done to bridge the divide lately?
 
It’s a tough question, isn’t it? It almost sounds like a Jesus question. Not necessarily gentle, but also full of truth and conviction. Seems like one we should have a quick answer to, but at the same time makes us really think. Yep, those are Jesus-style questions. In the above passage from Matthew’s Gospel, we find Jesus sitting at the dinner table with tax collectors and sinners. Sometimes, we forget that this dinner might not have been like our typical eat-quick-so-we-can-get-to-piano-practice dinners on Tuesday nights. There’s a pretty good chance this was a Shabbat meal – dinner on the sabbath day – and it would have been full of ritual and moments of holiness. Jesus is eating this dinner with his disciples, and who comes and sits down but tax collectors and sinners. Sabbath dinner gets awkward…quickly! This meal that is full of ritual and celebration of God’s goodness is infiltrated by those who probably weren’t welcome at many sabbath dinner tables. We don’t know who they are exactly – Matthew just calls them sinners and tax collectors. But, at the same time, we know exactly who they are, don’t we?
 
The Pharisees see it. Now, hear me out, Pharisees were not bad people. They just understood their faithfulness to rely on ensuring that God’s laws in scripture are followed and never ignored. They wanted to preserve what they understood as the foundation of faith. Jesus sometimes let things slide, and
that raised eyebrows! But what is Jesus doing? He’s making the table big enough to welcome those who don’t necessarily fit in at any other table.
 
So, back to the initial question, “what have you done to bridge the divide lately?” We have to be careful as we answer this to remember that Jesus has don  quite a bit to bridge the divide with us, too. We don’t have it all figured out, and the proverbial table is not yours or mine. It is, has always been, and will continue to be God’s table. Room has been made at the table for us. What are we doing, each of us to make room for others?
 
You see, this question isn’t about who is right and who is wrong, and who will be the bigger person to let the other person sit at the table. This question is about drawing closer to someone else, in spite of anything that might divide us. I believe this story from Matthew’s Gospel is there as a reminder to us that there is plenty of room at Christ’s table, and when we sit at it, we’ll also be sitting with those who live, believe, vote, and relate to others differently than us. The table then becomes vast! So, what’s then served at the table? Grace. Love. Peace. Hope. That’s all!
 
Does that mean that we’ll all start to automatically live in peace and harmony with all those on the other
side of the divisive canyons in our lives? No. That is possible – and it is the hope – but that takes a lot of
work! But, sitting at the table and pulling out the chair for someone else is a great place to start!
 
What have you done to bridge the divide recently?
 
Peace,
Pastor Brian
 
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October 2022 Connection

A Learning Church

As your pastor, one of the things I commit myself to is regular continuing education. It’s something I enjoy, as well as something I very much appreciate as it continues to nurture my own capacities for effective ministry and leadership. It is also my aim to ensure that I gain nuggets of learning that I can
pass on to you all as a church!
 
Currently, I am taking an online course called “Creating Learning Environments” through my seminary Alma Mater, Methodist Theological School in Ohio. The course is designed to help think through ministry as a constant process of creating learning environments for each and every one of us, as people of faith,
to learn, grow, and discover the goodness of God in all that we do. One thought that the class has been playing with for a couple of weeks now is this: The church does not have a Christian Education program. The Church is a Christian Education program
 
Admittedly, that sounds a bit like a fortune cookie saying, doesn’t it? But, what it is getting at is a very important truth. It reminds us that our education as Christians – our growth as disciples on a journey toward a community of God (sometimes we call that the “Kingdom of God”) – is not just something we do in a Sunday School classroom, in a pew at 9am or 11am, or in a Bible Study.  Those are vital and meaningful, to be sure! But, they are by no means a complete listing of the ways in which we “learn” as Christians. We also learn as Christians every time we expand our capacity to offer compassion and extend
God’s grace. We grow every time we find ourselves breaking bread with neighbor, friend, and stranger. We educate ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ every time we dance to the rhythms of forgiveness and reconciliation. 
 
Our means of Christian Education in the church that we are most familiar with – Sunday School, Bible Study, Small Groups, and even worship – are, once again, vital and important. But to assume that our Christian Education box is checked with just these is to ignore our greater purpose as a church. All that we do as a church – as a Christian Education entity – is to make disciples for the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God that we glimpsed through Jesus presence, ministry, and promise.
 
And so, what do we do with all of this? We commit ourselves to learning and growing. We commit ourselves, not merely to knowing more, but to discovering, dancing, playing, and witnessing God’s grace, love, hope, and peace, in all that we do as a church – as Christians. My prayer for you as you read this is that you would rediscover (or perhaps discover for the first time) the deep joy of being church. And once you’re there, come and make community with each of us! 
 
Amen.
Pastor Brian
 
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September 2022 Connection

An Obvious Miracle

When the apostles returned, they described for Jesus what they had done. Taking them with him, Jesus withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds figured it out, they followed him. He welcomed them, spoke to them about God’s kingdom, and healed those who were sick…[Jesus said], “You give them something to eat.” But they said, “We have no more than five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” – Luke 9:10-11, 13 (CEB)
 
The story of the feeding of the 5,000 found throughout the Gospels is perhaps one of the most well known biblical stories. Throughout generations, this story is told and retold, often focusing on what I like to call “the miracle of the plenty.” Sermon after sermon has been given on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; Jesus taking what seems like not nearly enough, and turning it into more than enough. Amazing!
 
But, in reading this version of the miracle story from Luke’s Gospel, I started to ask myself, “why didn’t Luke say more about what this would have been like, to miraculously see more food created?” Surely, someone must have noticed the sudden smorgasbord appear right before them, right?! Then it occurred to me: maybe Luke did! Just not in the details we were paying attention to. In Luke 9:10, Luke shares with us that Jesus retreated from the town where they had just been in ministry, to the town of Bethsaida. It’s not uncommon that, in reading scripture, we skip over names of people and towns we don’t know much about. Often, we’re just glad that we scored a passing grade on pronunciation. But, here, that town’s name is vitally important! In fact, the very mention of Bethsaida might be just the detail we need to know. Why? Because Bethsaida was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee.
 
Why would that matter?
 
As they entered Bethsaida, Jesus instructs the disciples to feed the people who had discovered that Jesus came to town – all 5,000 men plus women and children. The disciples question Jesus, in effect saying: “With what food Jesus? All we have is 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.” You see the irony? The disciples are complaining that they don’t have enough bread and fish to feed the hungry people, all while standing in Bethsaida…a FISHING VILLAGE!
 
The disciples were looking only at what they had on hand, and paid no attention to the environment and community in which they found themselves. It’s easy to do that isn’t it? As a church, we often talk about our resources, and we think only of those who are a part of the church – resources of energy, of time, of giving, etc. When we do this, it’s all to easy to throw up our hands and repeat the age-old gripe of churches: “we just don’t have enough.” (It’s probably worth noting that your pastor has said this his fair share of times). What if, instead, we were to include the whole community and environment around us in that evaluation of resources? Would we discover partnerships in the community, eager to help improve the lives of those in our community?  Would we discover donors who are excited about the ministries we are sharing?  Would we stumble upon ministry opportunities, themselves, such as service to the students in our schools? 

 

If we limit ourselves to only what we already have, we’ll always be staring at not enough.  But, if we’re to open our eyes to what Jesus sees, suddenly the miracle of plenty and the multiplication isn’t that dumbfounding. 
 

Jesus found fish in a fishing village.

Peace, Pastor Brian
 

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August 2022 Connection

What’s Informing What?

“What’s informing what?” Throughout my 10 years of ministry, I have found that, time and time again, this question has been extremely helpful. The complete question, though, is a bit more nuanced: What’s informing what? Is my faith informing my politic, or is my politic informing my faith? You could also ask the question with a little bit of a different verbiage: Is my faith forming my politic, or is my politic forming my faith?
 
Now before you classify this as a political speech by a pastor, no matter your feelings or leanings, don’t run away. Give me a few minutes.
 
Politics has become a bad word in the church…and maybe just about everywhere. We’ve equated “politics” with trickery and self interest by those who compete (and even fight) for our votes throughout the year. The word evokes images of yard signs, bumper stickers, and painfully bad television endorsements and attack ads. I’m going to suggest that we refuse to call that “politics” any longer. Politics is something far different – and far better.
 
The true definition of politics was defined long before Washington D.C. rose from the marshy land it sits on. It comes from the Greek politica, meaning “affairs of the cities.” Maybe that origin doesn’t blow you away. It shouldn’t really be a surprise. Politics has always been, in its truest form, about caring for the day-in, day-out affairs of our communities, local, national, and even international. Politics is about how we care for our collective whole, rather than how we might selfishly care for ourselves. Politics is about how we move forward as a community – as a whole. It is not about the preservation of the status quo. Politics, in its truest form, is about how to grow as a society and as a community.
 
And so, from this moment on, let’s do our best to understand the word “politics” to be about our collective, less-biased efforts to grow and thrive in community.
 
Now that we have a better definition of “politics,” let’s return to our initial question: “What’s informing what?” Or “What’s forming what?” To explore this, let’s take a pretty obvious example. In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus teaches:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
 
If our politics forms our faith, we might look at this passage and make the following argument: There are so many in this world that seem to be out to get us. No matter where you look, it seems that there are enemies of the United States, and no matter how much I try to do the right thing, it seems that there is no escape. We need to do everything we can in our power to eliminate those who hate us. Certainly, Jesus understands that we need to protect ourselves. I can love my enemies and still do what I need to do to stop them, right?
 
This perspective doesn’t sound that unfamiliar, does it. And, quite frankly, it’s not hard to justify it (I’ve done it, myself). But, what if we let our faith form our politic? Let’s take a look at the same scripture: There are so many in this world that seem to be out to get us. No matter where you look, it seems that there are enemies of the United States, and no matter how much I try to do the right thing, it seems that there is no escape. What would it look like for me to love them, though? Have I been praying for them? Have I tried to understand where they’re coming from, even if I don’t agree with them? When I’m voting, I wonder which candidate is praying for those who are against them and their campaign? When I’m signing petitions, does the proposed law seem to extend love or withhold it?
 
Don’t get me wrong, this second approach is much more difficult, far more often. That’s because Jesus’ teachings, when we look closely, are quite challenging. (I’d encourage you to keep practicing this with other teachings of Jesus).
 
And so, my commitment to you as your pastor is this: our church’s affiliation will be to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will continue to preach that same gospel and encourage you to let that same good news inform and form you in every way. Will we always agree? Of course not. And so in these spaces, let patience, love, and grace reign, and let the gospel inform and form our every relationship and interaction. Let the gospel inform and form our compassion and generosity. Let the gospel of Jesus Christ inform and form our desires for a more loving and just community and our individual and collective actions toward that end.
 
I just know that there’s a word for that…
 
That’s right… politics.
 
Love one another.
Pastor Brian
 
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July 2022 Connection

“Preparing the Way”

Beginning in 1958, my grandparents, Melvin and Jane West, began renting a summer cottage in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, a small town on Martha’s Vineyard island. As school teachers, they’d take a majority of the summer to travel out there with my dad and uncle in the car’s backseat. They’d spend days on the beach with friends, old and new. After two summers of doing this, my grandparents were
presented with the possibility of buying a cottage in the historical campground. With the help of some friends, they purchased a small cottage at 4 Forest Circle for $1,800. The cottage which is now nicknamed, “Reunion,” was first built in the 1860’s and maintains the essence of that initial design today. Nearly 100 years after this cottage began making memories for families before us, it has, for the last
62 years, been a place for retreat and reunion for the West family.
 
As you read this article, Stephanie, the kids and I are getting back from a 9 day visit to the Martha’s Vineyard cottage and a reunion with my dad’s side of our family. As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that my grandparents, their sons, their grandchildren, and now their great-grandchildren have all enjoyed this place, and will continue to for years – even generations.
 
I reflect on this, not to suffer you though someone else’s vacation stories (who doesn’t love that?), but to ask a meaningful question: are we always aware of the fact that our decisions and actions will have an impact on generations to come? That sounds more ominous that it is intended, but I suspect you get my point. Did my grandparents have any idea that their real estate purchase would become a special – even spiritual – place for our family? Did they know that we’d build memories with our kids there? Did they know that ashes of our beloved would become part of the ground on which the cottage sits? Did they know that other families would begin their own traditions on Martha’s Vineyard because of that
space? I suspect that they did know, and I suspect they’d be pleased to know it worked!
 
The decisions we make today, as well as the actions we take today as a church, are not only accomplishing ministry and mission in the here and now, but preparing the way for the church (the
Body of Christ) that will come after each of us. You see, ministry is rarely looking back at what was (or what we perceive to have been), but rather looking forward. At times, it requires us to take a leap of
faith. At other times, it requires us to change. If we’re willing to take steps to set the stage for the church to come, we are, in a very real way, preserving the faith.
 
Amen. 
Pastor Brian
 
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June 2022 Connection

“Strive for the A”

A few years ago, I initiated a church program called “Strive for the A.” It was a program that challenged people to strive toward a 90% or higher worship attendance during the year. You’ll remember, a 90% or higher was an “A” on a report card, right? That said, no one at the church was keeping official record or sending out report cards, nor was the point to drudge up repressed anxious memories of grade school marking periods, or anything like that. It was simply to encourage regular worship attendance. And so, let me issue the same challenge for the remainder of 2022. Strive for the A!
 
Some Things to Know:
  • Life happens to each one of us! And you know what I mean by “life.” And so, don’t put an unrealistic expectation on yourself to have perfect attendance. Would it be nice? Sure! Is it practical? Probably not. And so, don’t think that a church usher will show up on your porch if you miss a Sunday or anything like that. This is an encouragement – not a law.
  • Don’t forget that you can still worship with us online. Now, I know that worshiping online just isn’t the same thing as being in-person. Of course it’s not! But it still counts! But gone are the days of having to feel fully disengaged from the church on Sundays when we’re sick or out of town. Remember that you can always worship with us live at 9am on Sundays on our YouTube channel, or throughout the week, any time after that!
  • Even though you don’t have to actually track your worship attendance (in-person or online), I would encourage you to do so anyway. Whether it’s on the notes app on your phone, on a calendar, or even just a piece of paper or notebook, tracking it can help you realize the difference it makes in your life.
 
Why Should I Strive for the A? (you may or may not be asking that question, but just go with me…)
  • First and foremost, community (or congregational) worship is an extremely important part of who we are as Christians and what we do. It is about celebrating our God who loves us more than we can ever fully understand. Worship isn’t something we should feel we have to do. Rather, the goal is that we come to experience worship as something we want to do. That said, building a routine around worship can be very helpful. Some days will require a bit more self-motivation than others, but I’ve never regretted going to worship.
  • Worship is kind of like charging your phone at the end of the day. Sunday worship helps us feel recharged with God’s Spirit. Worship helps us to reconnect with God – plug-in, if you will. When you make worship a regular part of your weekly routine, you’ll start to notice, even more, when you miss a Sunday. It’s much like forgetting to charge your phone at night. The week just starts off…well, off!
  • I (Pastor Brian) will be sad if you don’t strive for the A. Okay, I won’t be sad, per se, but I really do hope that you will make worship a regular part of your and your family’s weekly life. My job – my goal – is to help lead people on their faith journey with Christ. Worship is one of the ways that I can do that, and so I take worship very seriously. In planning worship, I typically plan about 6-12 months in advance, not so that I can brag about that, but so that I can create a big picture blueprint, if you will, for how we’re going to grow in our discipleship through worship. Each Sunday is carefully planned with a theme that builds on top of previous weeks, and lays the foundation for weeks and months to come. Now, let me be clear: don’t come for me! Come and worship because it is through worship that we come closer to God in Christ, and discover God’s call on our lives to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
And so, will you join me as, together, we strive for the A?
 
Peace,
Pastor Brian
 
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May 2022 Connection

Church-and-Rescue
(Get it?!)

 
In 2007, Arthur Allen, an oceanographer and member of the United States Coast Guard, put into practice an improved model of maritime search and rescue that became known as Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System (SAROPS). Say that three times fast! This was a result of nearly a decade of work studying the push and pull of bodies of water on everything from distressed swimmers and kayaks, to lost-at-sea ships and even aircraft. What became known as “Drift Analysis,” Arthur was able to bring great improvement to a process of search and rescue that, though already underway in its earliest form, would ultimately benefit immensely from the changes he proposed. To be fair, though, Arthur’s proposed changes were not welcomed by all, especially those who believed that the many years old processes of search and rescue were “good enough.”
 
Now, you might suspect that my purpose in sharing this story is to say that we can’t always do things the way we always have because new ways can be a great improvement, etc…etc. While there is a great amount of truth to that, my focus is rather on the boldness and innovation demonstrated by Arthur Allen, hardly a household name, to dedicate his life’s work to exploring better ways of finding those who were lost at sea. He believed that, while there was merit to the original practices of search and rescue, there might be better and more successful ways of saving the lost.
 
See where this is going?
 
We all get to be a version of Arthur Allen for Christ’s church, don’t we? Many of us remember times, not all that long ago, when it seemed as though you could just open the church doors and people would show up, connect, join the church, and spend lifetimes as part of the congregation. As time has passed, we’ve learned that it doesn’t really work like that, anymore. There are a variety of reasons for this, some of which are actually really good, but that’s a topic for another book – or volumes of them.
 
And so, now we have to look at the vast waters of the community in which we live and serve as a church and ask ourselves, how can we, like Arthur Allen, search the waters differently for the lost. With our journey of 1800 feet to the street a few weeks ago on Palm Sunday, we begin the work of building meaningful and lasting relationships with the Grand Blanc community. While it may not be search and rescue, so to speak, it is a process of boldly and creatively declaring that we can, in fact, build upon what we’ve done in the past to discover effective ways of gospel sharing, relationship building, and church growing.
 
Join me, won’t you, as we survey the waters around us, learn more about how the waters flow, and discover those adrift, so that we might serve, love, and demonstrate the grace of God to the world around us.
 
Peace,
Pastor Brian
 
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April 2022 Connection

Drawing the Church Family Back Together

As spring is upon us, Easter is on the near horizon, and flowers are getting ready for planting and blooming, I am also growing more and more (cautiously) optimistic that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. With that optimism also comes an awareness that everyone is exploring their own ever-changing comfort levels with gatherings, masks, and so many more considerations we’ve never fathomed before.
 
That said, I want to offer this reminder: as a congregation and church family,  each and every one of our family members are loved and cared about. For those of you who are (or have been) ready to resume many of your familiar rhythms in the life of the church, we are glad that you are here and we give thanks for you! For those who are still exercising increased caution around your health in light of COVID-19, we are glad that you remain part of our family, and we give thanks for you! Though you’re perhaps not ready to be a part of in-person gatherings yet, we are hopeful that you’re finding time to worship with us virtually, stay connected, exercise your generosity through giving, and support the church through your prayers and willingness to serve as a follower of Christ in meaningful, albeit different ways. Please know that when you are ready to return, we are excitedly waiting for you and saving space for you.
 
Finally, a challenge throughout this pandemic has been that each one of us have, to at least some extent, lost some of the rhythm of our routines – the practices and interactions that make life click. It’s entirely understandable if the routines of worship and discipleship have faded for some – certainly not intentionally, but simply by happenstance. If this is the case for you or someone you know, please know that you are loved, we are excited for your return, and a space is saved for you, always.
 
Easter is about discovering resurrection from the tombs of life – and we’ve experienced a lot of those lately. As we draw this family called GBUMC back together, all in time, we are also drawing our circle wider, seeking to welcome, include, and celebrate God’s amazing grace with new faces, as well as familiar faces. Perhaps you know of someone in your life who just might find themselves at home here at GBUMC – or more importantly, might find themselves at home in God’s love. My challenge to you is to take a chance and invite them for worship, if not for Easter Sunday, any Sunday! 
 
As spring is upon us, Easter is on the near horizon, and flowers are getting ready for planting and blooming, we are excited to be the church with you, today, tomorrow, and for years ahead!
 
Pastor Brian
 
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