DENOMINATIONAL CONNECTING TIME -
It has been a hectic time for me as I have split myself between two denominations.
First, was the Lutheran Synod Assembly over a two day period. Hearing what some churches are doing is always inspiring and encouraging. Having a wonderful, gifted bishop re-elected by an overwhelming majority on the second ballot was a great joy.
Although I couldn't vote, I took the voting time as a time to pray silently for my brothers and sisters in Christ known as ELCA Lutherans, for the Synod and for the work, presence and power of Christ to be with and among the Synod and the Assembly and in the voting. It was good.
I also had time to reconnect with folks I've known along the way, clergy and lay alike, from past congregations I have served or congregations my husband has served. It was good. I enjoyed the morning worship and remembering our baptism on the first day.
After Sunday worship, I packed my bags, for a Presbytery-wide retreat on restructuring our Presbytery. It was to be time apart in a neighboring state at a wonderfully, gracious, holy place infused with hospitality by the nuns. Three intense days of reimagining, of worship, of consolation and desolation, of a variety of MB types, and Gallup strengths, and Change Indictors. As with all God's people - a varietal mix and all needed and honored. Together with pastors and ruling elders under the able gifted and affirming leadership of our GP and others, with God's very real presence and the work of God's own Spirit, we came to lift up three legs for our Presbytery to do its work and ministry in a spiritual way rather than the corporate model way. A breath of life!!!
Since not the whole Presbytery could be gathered, we did miss a few folks whose wisdom, insight and gifts would have been welcomed. I continue to be amazed at how gifted our people are and what a forward looking Presbytery this is. We are tired of too much structure that strangles the Spirit to work and to dance among us.
It was a surprise to be asked to play piano for our worship time, since there seemed to be no one else. I haven't really played much in a couple of years. Oh, to get my fingers moving over the keyboard again! I apologized for all the mistakes that would occur and inviting them to sing over these mistakes!!! Actually, since most of the songs were from Taize and contemplative - it made it much easier for me. There was one new song out of our denomination sampler (new hymnal due out this fall), that I was not familiar with and when I asked who was, not one hand went up!!! We give it our best and that is one to try again sometime.
Our last evening after much intensity, a few hurt feelings, although that still confounded me and most others, a spontaneous communion service transpired. One of the groups presenting a skit, brought bread, broke it and passed it out to their group members and then gave their pieces of bread back and made the bread, although broken, whole again. Fractured but back together again. So the bread was there and there was wine.
One of the planning team members who lead worship, was put on the spot, to officiate communion. I suggested a wonderful Taize song as a way to center us for communion - The Lord is my light, my light and salvation, in God I trust. Truly needed and inspired by God's Spirit. We gathered around in a circle and the bread was passed one to another, while the worship leader followed with the cup for intinction. And spontaneously, someone begin to sing that Taize song and we sang it continuously until the last one communed. It became prayer. Not just the usual Presbyterian sing it three times and that's enough. It was beautiful, healing, encouraging. It was the pure Love and utter grace of Christ present and given to us.
There is still much yet before us, but the whole assembly desired a retreat next year with time and space for quiet and renewal, and spiritual direction. Finally, after 14 years, since my certification as a spiritual director, our Presbytery, our people are getting it!!!! To trust the slow work of God, sometimes.
It is exciting, renewing, scary, to create and re-create, to transform, to be more grounded and listening to God and to live into the Mystery and even of unknowing. Terribly difficult for us J's, but something I have been doing these past 14 years. And, it will not be easy, but it will be transforming.
I pray that our Presbytery will continue their journey, grounded in God, open to God's Spirit, rooted in the love of Christ, and willing to go forward in new ways so that the body of Christ which are our churches, and our Presbytery will thrive (and not necessarily in numbers - which is always welcome0 but in depth of discipleship and mission and living into our calling.
It was a rich time away and apart to be a part of both denominational gatherings, to know their similar struggles and their same desire to be faithful disciples and witnesses in this ever changing world and culture.
Thanks be to God who renews, brings life and brings to life more than we can ever imagine!