Throughout our exploration of how to grow our church, we have challenged our members to come up with both public and private “What if?” statements. Some of these have been shared, paper leaves hanging from the vine in the church’s narthex.
One of the earliest leaves carried a potentially loaded message: “What if we all talked to more people during coffee hour?”
The message, of course, is that to be truly open, friendly and welcoming, we have to be, well, friendly and welcoming.
This article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch drives this point home.
What do you think? What can we do as a church to continue growing, furthering our mission?
Thanks to Judy Hertenstein, who recently presented her own “What if” moment during worship.
Imagine What’s Possible! That was the theme for the Missouri Mid South Annual Gathering last weekend. There were a multitude of What If ideas presented from the “imagine a New World” where we are all One to individual ideas. As religion has been used as an excuse for war, we need to recognize our unity and to become One body in Christ. We can share diverse gifts and talents in the common cause of serving in the name of God. What if we looked at everyone out of love? Not only those in our family or close friends but also the stranger on the street, even the drug addict, the convict…they are all children of God. What If we reached out to each other intentionally? There are many who lack Hope because of their situations…unemployment, health issues, financial worries, grieving, family dysfunction, and others. What If we really listened to what others have to say not just with our ears but with our hearts also? What If we reached out to each other with the real desire to understand each other and a willingness to work together? Giving Hope improves relationships. With LOVE and HOPE, JOY can follow as we serve Christ as ONE body. Imagine What’s Possible!
What If each Sunday we really heard the story again as if hearing it for the first time? We need to really listen, not only with our ears but with our heart. And not only on Sunday, but in our daily prayer and Bible reading, really listen for what God is saying to us. We may hear God’s plan for us. We need to realize that God’s plan is not always our plan…deep listening may give us a better picture. Imagine What’s Possible!
As we are looking at growing the vine together, we are in fact growing in numbers. We will be welcoming new members on July 24. This is good, but that is not the only way we can grow. What If on Rally Day we all wore something green or something with Ivy, not just the word, but perhaps a picture? And here’s a novel idea, What If some other Sunday we all wore hats? These are just other fun ways to say we are a family. Let’s become a true community of Christ…every member contributing unique gifts and using those gifts for the work of Christ. All things are possible through Christ. Imagine What’s Possible!
The Conference Annual Gathering was a wonderful event. Of course there’s the business of the Conference—including the annual budget proposal. The deficit is finally becoming manageable due to some restructuring, sound investing and local church support through OCWM. Then there is the good food and fellowship. It is like a yearly family reunion with members of all UCC churches across the conference reconnecting, sharing, praying, singing and playing together. I even got to play pinochle with Jeff Whitman, our Conference Minister and with a classmate from 40 years ago. What If a group of us went to the Conference Annual Gathering next year? Everyone is welcoming and caring. Imagine What’s Possible!
Other What Ifs dealt with local church…What If we changed our worship service to be less predictable…more variety in music? What If we changed the rhythm and style of some well known hymns…not all the time but occasionally…a little jazz, a little gospel, a little rock and roll? We do some of this on special Sundays, like camp Sunday and Youth Sunday, but how about other times. What If we became a part of the Creative Faith Project? Think of all the ways art…in all its many forms…drama, painting, dance, handicrafts, music…can be a part of the worship experience. This would be another opportunity to revitalize Ivy Chapel. Imagine What’s Possible!
How do you unlock what’s possible? What’s your “what if”?
Thanks to Ivy Chapel member Jo Ann Moody, who recently shared her “What if” reflection with the congregation during worship.
How many of you were here the cold Sunday morning in late January, when Dan announced Ivy Chapel was initiating a “Growing the Vine Together” theme and we planted sprigs of ivy in these two planters? I imagine there was some skepticism the plantings would grow, and the theme would catch-on. But here we are, it is early June and look what has been accomplished!
With careful tending and nurturing by Ivy members with gardening expertise, we continue to have ivy growing and thriving in these specially decorated pots. Perhaps one of these surviving vines is one you planted! Question is, who is the Gardener helping Ivy Chapel UCC to grow and strengthen our vines?
I suggest God’s Holy Spirit is among us, helping us find our roots and spread our shoots. The Holy Spirit is taking our “Growing the Vine Together” journey with us, nurturing our ideas and giving us strength to stretch and grow in ways we can only imagine.
Early in this process, I remember hearing a trustee say, “What if we grew enough ivy to cover Ivy Chapel’s big hill so it would not have to be mowed?” What an idea, that a few sprigs, planted on a cold Sunday in January, would survive and eventually grow to spread their beauty beyond these two pots, and provide a benefit far beyond today’s simple existence.
What if our ideas and actions coming from our “Growing the Vine Together” initiative creates new roots here at Ivy Chapel, and off-shoots in our community and elsewhere, that has far more reaching impact than envisioned today!
What if we accept God’s gift of Grace and fully invite the Holy Spirit to be a part of our own journey and Ivy Chapel’s journey? What if we used this journey to take our theme to another level, one where we “Love God; follow Christ; serve others.”
Imagine the possibilities!
What do you think? What can we do to grow?
What if you shared your church with just one person?
What would be the impact on your fellow members? On your church? On your friend?
What if everyone did the same?
What if everyone invited a friend to church on Sunday? Or to the church picnic? Or bible study?
Sharing your love for your church and for God isn’t hard, is it?
What do you think will happen?
Thank you to Ivy Chapel Member Rod Hertenstein, who recently shared his personal “What if” reflection with the congregation during worship.
The “why” of these “what if” moments is to imagine what is not, but could be. To dream, of spirit filled ways we could grow. This is hard. There’s a cost—making dreams real means commitment, follow through. Hard enough, but there’s something else we need now to name, something even more daunting, because most visionary dreams require of us the thing we most seek to avoid, even dread, and that, brothers and sisters, is CHANGE. Big dreams demand new attitudes, sometimes a radically altered perspective.
We resist this because we already have perspectives and attitudes. Many of us, and I am included, have been sharpening and grinding our personal perspectives, our personal attitudes on all things, for decades. We live in this private zone of comfort– DO NOT DISTURB.
The thing is, my “what if” this morning may disturb your perspective. When you first hear it, you may choose to dismiss it out of hand as “ridiculous, unbelievable.”
Well, here it is: “What if we were to discover that the Messiah is one of us.”
I know, it does sound impossible, but humor me a bit by hearing a story. This is told by Megan McKenna: “Once upon a time there was a wise abbot of a monastery who was the friend of an equally wise rabbi. This was in the old country, long ago, when times were always hard, but just then they were even worse. The abbot’s community was dwindling, and the faith life of his monks was fearful, weak and anxious. He went to his friend and wept. His friend, the Rabbi, comforted him, and said “there is something you need to know, my brother. We have long known in the Jewish community that the Messiah is one of you.” “
What,” exclaimed the abbot, “the Messiah is one of us? How can this be?”
The Rabbi insisted it was so. The abbot returned to his monastery wondering and praying, excited beyond words. He would walk down the halls, past a monk, wondering, is he the one. Sitting in chapel, praying, he would hear a voice and look intently at a face and wonder, is he the one. The abbot had always been kind, but now began to treat all of his brothers with profound kindness and awe, ever deeper respect, even reverence. Soon everyone noticed. One of the other brothers came to him and asked “ what had happened?”
The abbot told him what the rabbi had said. Soon the other monk was looking at his brothers differently, with deeper respect, kindness, awe, reverence. Word spread quickly: the Messiah is one of us. The monastery was suddenly full of life, worship, love and grace. The prayer life was rich, devoted, passionate. The services were alive and vibrant. Soon the surrounding villagers came to the services, listening and watching intently, and many joined the community of monks. After their novitiate, when they took their vows, they were told the mystery, the truth that their life was based upon, the source of their strength, the richness of their life together: The Messiah IS one of us.
The monastery grew and flourished in house after house, and the monks grew in wisdom and grace before each other and in the eyes of God.” So the story ends. Could it be our beginning? Jesus taught us that the kingdom of God is within us. We proclaim the Messiah is among us, and the church is the visible Body of Christ on earth.
What if it became our joy to discover glimmers, thru words and deeds, acts of love and sacrifices, glimpses of the Messiah in each other– visible today in one person, tomorrow in another, but always present among us. Call me a dreamer, but what if we turned away from the faults, fears and failings of each other, and focused, like a laser, only on the moments when glimmers of the Messiah emerge in one another. What if this became our passion?
What then might we become, might we do together as Ivy Chapel, the Body of Christ, where the Messiah IS one of us?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
It sounds kind of corny, especially as the snow starts to melt and we’re all feeling a little happier.
But what if we all smiled more?
What affect would this have on our lives? How would it make us feel? More importantly, how would it make other people feel?
Think about this over the next week as you go to church, to school, to work, to the store. What if we all smiled more? How would it affect you, and those around you?
During Ivy Chapel’s recent annual meeting, members of the congregation were invited to write their “What if” thoughts and challenges on paper leaves, which now decorate the Narthex. This post was inspired by one of those anonymous comments. We will be sharing more soon. Please feel free to share your own “What if” challenge in the comments below.
Do you check in at church?
It’s a question that has many meanings in today’s ever-connected world.
“Check in” of course, has a virtual meaning. Today, people check-in on Foursquare, Facebook and other location-aware applications using their smartphones. It’s a way to share with friends, family and co-workers details about what’s going on.
Maybe you check in at the movies. Maybe you check in when you go out to eat. But do you check in at church, sharing the event with your family and friends on Twitter and Facebook?
What if we all checked in at church? What if we shared what we do every Sunday morning with those who matter the most of us?
What if we invited others to check in with us?
And what of “checking in”?
Are you checked in when you are at church?
Are you truly engaged, listening for God’s words and ready to take action?
What if we were all truly checked in?
(A personal reflection by Ivy Chapel Moderator Sarah Heend, presented during worship on Sunday, January 30.)
What if we all said yes more often? To requests for help at Ivy, in the community, from our families and friends? From God? What if we looked at new situations as opportunities instead of obstacles? How much would we grow emotionally and spiritually? Personally, this is something that is very hard for me, but I have tried to do it here at Ivy. Or rather I have been pushed by God to do it, sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently.
Looking back to when we joined Ivy, 10 years ago, I never could have foreseen that I would have volunteered to speak today. Just making an announcement before worship used to make me lose sleep. Some of you know how much it cost me several years ago to lead the closing for Vacation Bible School, which meant I was talking in front of the parents as well as the kids. It took some hard praying and a lot of reassurance from many people for me to get up there. But I learned so much about myself, and what I could do that July week.
That led to opportunities to help with the fundraising dinners, to join the choir, and so much more, including accepting the role of moderator when I was asked last fall. It hasn’t been easy to listen to the voice that tells me to accept the challenge. I have spent lots of time praying and worrying, in the middle of the night and all throughout the day. But in the end I have overcome my hesitation, which has allowed me to get so much out of my experiences; it has been worth all the sweat and tears over the years.
If I had said, “No,” to these opportunities I would have missed so much. I would have never realized that I could really do it. I never would have joined the choir and had the opportunity to expand my spiritual growth through music. In the past my anxiety held me back from some things that I wanted to do. And other things I never had the courage to even dream about. When I said, “Yes” to these requests, these calls from God, I was rewarded beyond my expectations. No it hasn’t been easy, and no I am not free of my anxieties about new situations, but it is all a journey. A journey that I am glad I started. A journey I want to continue.
What if we all said, “Yes” more often? Yes to each other, yes to opportunity, yes to God?
Thank you for reading the Ivy Chapel “What if?” Blog. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be publishing thoughts and challenges, questions that, when thoughtfully answered, will help us become the people God wants us to be.
During our Annual Meeting in January, we challenged members of our congregation to pose “What if?” questions to each other. These challenges were written on slips of paper shaped like leaves, and now hang on the ivy vines hanging in the narthex. We’ll be posting a few of these to get the discussion started, along with other inspirational thoughts.
Feel free to comment. Join the conversation. Help us grow, and, in turn, grow your own faith as well.
We are the “God is Still Speaking” Church!
We celebrate that God is continuing to bless our lives with daily grace.
Guess what we’ve discovered?
God is inviting us to go on a trip together.
No, it’s not a vacation trip.
This is a vocation trip!
Our vocation, our calling is becoming who God is asking us to be.
As the saying goes, “Life is not a destination. It’s a journey!”
Our congregation is embarking on a Journey that we’re calling: Growing the Vine Together.
We are travelling together. And it’s exciting!
“Still-Speaking” God is saying: “What If…”
It’s about potential.
The possibilities are limitless.
This “What If…” Journey is about our God-given potential as a community of faith.
There’s a world of difference between “living it up” and “living up” to who God would like us to be!
Our congregation’s “What If…” Journey is a calling to “live up” to our God-given potential.
This is a process of calling on God to reveal ever more things we can do to support and enhance the life
of this congregation which is a vital instrument of God for carrying out Christ’s ministries.
Ivy Chapel UCC is our spiritual home. God has provided us with this remarkable church home not solely
for our own benefit. This is all part of God’s design: We are blessed, so that we may offer blessing.
We receive, so that we may give.
We have been given much. God has entrusted us with much. Related to this, our Savior Jesus
proclaims, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one
who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
“What If…” you and I trust God with abandon?
“What If…” we live with conviction that Ivy Chapel United Church of Christ is Holy Ground?
With the conviction that there are unique and crucial things God fervently wants to accomplish here?
Imagine what could come about!
Where can this Journey lead?
See for yourself. We pray that you will come and see!
Let’s join together - Growing the Vine Together.
Rev. Dan Wilson
Pastor, Ivy Chapel United Church of Christ
“God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work… Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the Gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with [the saints] and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that God has given you. Thanks be to God for God’s indescribable gift!”
2 Corinthians 9:8,13-15
Trust these words.
Trust in God’s provision.