In discussing the challenges of moving from “grey water” to “fine wine” the question becomes, “How do we do it?”
First, what is the challenge? The challenge centers on moving our intimate relationships from the “grey water” of simple maintenance into a place of the best of what a loving relationship offers.
That is a hard threshold to pass through. Maybe, one possible way to view it is to look at what holds us back. And one possibility is the idea of “perfection.” There is a way in which couples and friends who are deeply connected appear to have moved beyond needing the other to be perfect. They manage to dismiss areas dominated by our impoverished selves and to celebrate areas of true strength.
New Church theology is clear – the concept of “fault” unnecessarily complicates the vicissitudes of life. Restated, the ups and downs of relationships won’t kill us. It is the application of “blame” and “fault” that will. Blame and fault often are simply the ego’s attempt to control – an attempt growing out of a selfishness loved concerned only with the individual’s agenda.
I look forward to hearing what Mary Ellen and Paul Mundy – married 50 years – have to share this week. I know most of us I imagine are still in the “grey water.” I know a blessed few who appear to really be in the fine wine time. It will be fun to celebrate it!
A famous biblical story portrays Jacob wrestling through the night with an angel. It is not until morning that Jacob realizes the true identity of who is wrestling with. He refuses to let go until he receives a blessing. The blessing is bestowed but so is a wound, one to his hip.
Do we have to, at times, “wrestle” for a blessing? In a sense we do. Important to note, the “match” as it were is not of God’s choosing but ours. A story really brought this home to me in the book, “One Thousand Gifts.”
The author, Ann Voskamp, writes of watching as one son throws a piece of toast at his brother in the midst of an ugly argument. The “wrestling” for her was a prayer to God to help her find the blessing in that moment. She held back her own upset, eventually telling her angry boy, “I want to hear how it is for you.” Through the tears, and through the anger, what emerged was his story, his experience, his feeling. At the end they talked of how hard it is find gifts, using the story of Jacob as the context for their conversation.
When we “wrestle” for these blessings, a certain part will be thrown “out of joint” so to speak. It is not easy. It is painful to give up our ability to “make a stand.” But the stand we make in wrestling for the blessing is far more significant.
Since our restructuring, what will NewChurch LIVE look like? February 13th hopefully answered many of the questions. For those fans of NewChurch LIVE, this blog entry describes what we are doing to continue building a thriving congregation. Join us this weekend to check it out!
Our focus on message remains the same. In a fall survey, the NCL congregation was clear – message is our most important asset. Our messages focus on relevance, in taking what we talk about on Sunday and having it be transportable into Monday. To accomplish that task we first look at God’s Word and how it can answer the questions of the 21st century world. We often use contemporary examples wrapped in culturally relevant imagery. Our hope is that people will continue to leave feeling inspired. (Video: How To Build A Sermon)
We are also likewise big believers in a teamwork approach. Services involve upwards of 20 individuals who help with everything from ideation, to graphics, to sermon construction. Individuals also often tell parts of their own story as part of the service, either in words or in music.
We purposefully chose more contemporary music. This is because our primary audience is the first time attender. Many of them are at best uncomfortable with “Christian Rock.” We are a definitively Christian church – just a branch of Christianity more interested with the inclusionary claims of Jesus vs. the exclusionary claims made by some Christians today. We seek to reach people where they are. Secular music with a deeply spiritual message best conveys the message that “you are welcome here.”
Kids are very important to us as a congregation. We seek to serve families. Curtis Childs, aka “Mr. Curtis” does a wonderful job with this element our program. Designed for those in the elementary grades, KidsLIVE seeks to convey the simple yet profound message of God’s presence in their lives.
We recently moved our KidsLIVE program from a separate building into the lobby of the Mitchell Performing Arts Center. For those too young for KidsLIVE, we are opening the “Green Room” at the Mitchell Performing Arts Center (MPAC) during the service, a very comfortable space where families with young children can watch their children and the service at the same time.
These elements continue to be critical to NewChurch LIVE. Approximately 40 individuals volunteer every Sunday at our Sunday worship environment. Others help out during the week. Many folks in addition serve on community service projects both local in the greater Philadelphia region.
Small Groups are frankly our biggest “win.” If a person involves themselves in a small group they often find religion coming alive in new ways. Our offerings rotate. For example right now, we are offering 2 Bible Study groups, 1 support group for working mom’s, and a bi-weekly program called “Strength” – a program for those with habits, hurts, and hangups (aka all of us!) who want to employ the 12 Steps of recovery to spiritual growth.
All our services are posted online via our homepage, Vimeo, and YouTube. People can join a live chat on Facebook as well. We also publish services via Podcasts for those who like to listen while walking!
The news out of Egypt is very exciting! While movements towards democracy are never without fits and starts, neither are they without births. So, for today, lets just celebrate a wonderful birth. God’s most precious gift if human freedom. When we sense it, when we witness its arrival, all of can celebrate.
We launched NewChurch LIVE, May of 2009 with The Road Ahead. This week the service topic is Road Ahead II.
Important to note, we are moving forward. Joining me on the team will be Angela Cooper as Executive Assistant. In addition, filling part time positions – Randy Wagner will take over as Music Director, Stephen Bochneak as Production Director, Curtis Childs as KidsLIVE Director, and Shada Sullivan as Content Director. Three other part time positions remain vacant at this time but will be filled shortly. Kyla White will be helping us with the transition for a period of three months.
There are numerous opportunities for people to step into volunteer roles. These include opportunities to serve and opportunities to lead as well.
I want to close with a deep appreciation over the countless emails, phone calls, and conversations with so many of you who care so deeply about this church. I have always been “in.” I think of life as giving a few blessed opportunities to really make a difference. I believe this is one! For many of us, it may be the work of our life. That sure brings a smile to my face.