What better time to have another update from the visioning process we called the Healthy Church Initiative (or HCI) than the Thursday before we dedicate our financial commitments for 2015 during worship? Please remember to consider your commitment and bring your response to worship with you. We will ask that you place both your regular weekly gift and your commitment card in the offering place as it is passed during worship. (We hope you can be in worship this Sunday but if you cannot, you may mail in your pledge card or bring it the next Sunday. Thank you!)
One of our recommendations coming from our HCI experience dealt with our worship. Three years ago, we went from having two Sunday morning services down to one Sunday morning service. For the past several years, we have been considering what a new, second service would look like. After considering a different second service through a lot of prayer, conversation, and reflection our leadership team, staff and CMC have agreed that for the time being we will focus on our one service. At this present time we do not have either the passion for or the critical mass needed to begin a second service.
However in the coming months we will be very intentional about some changes in our worship in order to be even more inviting. It’s important for us to grow in our worship attendance so that we can remain “Big enough to make a difference.”
In the past several weeks there have been a couple of small changes in worship.
We are working on a more first time user-friendly bulletin. Next time you’re in church take a look at the first word on the bulletin cover. The word is “Welcome.” One of the things we’ve discovered about ourselves from talking with our guests is that we are a welcoming church. We thought it would be good to start with that expression.
I’m not wearing my robe and stole every Sunday and we have asked the choir to experiment with not wearing robes every time they are singing. We will still wear our robes on the first Sunday of the month. Again a small change that many believe will make a difference in how inviting we are to first time visitors and guests.
We are still celebrating Holy Communion on the first and third Sundays of the month. But we are changing where Holy Communion occurs during service on the third Sunday of the month. Having Holy Communion earlier in the service, directly after the first song, makes it possible for children to receive communion. A lot of us like that.
There are a few other changes that are also being developed including…
Making the bulletin even more new user friendly. This might mean fewer inserts and written reminders. What would it be like to read announcements on the screen or on the monitor at fellowship time?
Hopefully you’ve read somewhere that we are going to keep using (for a lack of a better phrase) a “Sermon Series” model for our worship. This means that themes for worship and sermons will still be scripturally based. Instead of following a prescribed “lectionary” reading, we will explore topically how to praise God and follow God’s ways through Jesus.
We will be inviting some of you to participate on our inviting welcoming team. This team will focus on our response to those have who visited us and who are searching for a new church home.
One thing many of us have learned in this process is that we need to learn and continue to respond to the needs our community and continue to nurture and speak to the members of EPUMC; who are two sides of the same coin of growing disciples through worship.
It’s “Give to the Max” day in Minnesota. This is a day when a lot of us are making donations to various non-profits and other causes. Like a lot of you, I’m giving to PROP. Somebody thought it would be fun to challenge the PROP board to give up to a certain amount on “Give to the Max Day” and they would match the gift. Compared to that, my gift is small, but it takes the whole board giving to get the match and so, since I’m on PROP’s board, I’m doing my part.
Talking about money is not always the most comfortable thing to do and yet it is an important conversation. In scripture, the only thing Jesus talks about more than money is God. The old adage that goes, “It’s not about the money, but...it’s about the money,” is consistently affirmed by Jesus. He does this on a large scale like when he questions the economics of the temple. (Matthew 21:12). And at a smaller individual measure when he says, “Where your treasure lies, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34). Most of us get that…
The conversation about giving to EPUMC is (I hope) also going on in your home. We are in the middle of talking about this in our worship around the theme of “How Much is Enough…” Last Sunday, we heard the feeding of the 5,000 from the scripture and Nadia Boltz-Webber who said this about the disciples and our dilemma; “Maybe the disciples, like us, need to be reminded that even when we do not have what is needed, what is needed is still at hand…it’s just gonna come from God or others, because in God’s economy, that’s how it works. What you have is enough because it is never all there is.”
I believe this. It is not just that I believe that our giving and our sharing together does more than we can imagine; it’s that I believe Jesus is showing up at EPUMC. Jesus is showing up and not just stretching a nickel a little farther, Jesus is showing up and challenging us to be more like him. Jesus is showing up and using what it is we have to offer to support and transform lives.
Now, I have no idea how Jesus spent his money. But I have some idea about what Jesus spent his life doing. Jesus spent his life taking risks that God would be showing up. Time and time again Jesus challenges the assumptions of scarcity and points towards the abundance that he experiences. As you consider your giving on “Give to the Max Day” and your support of the ministry and mission of EPUMC may you be inspired to see the abundance of God showing up in your life. And may you also be inspired to respond generously to the challenge of where your treasure, your wealth, your gift, your financial pledge, whatever else you might call your money will be spent.
Keep the Faith!
Eden Prairie UMC is a polling place, Precinct 10 for the City of Eden Prairie. On Tuesday after I voted at a different precinct, I was “inspecting” the assortment of cookies and treats and coffee our gracious staff and congregation always puts out. (Don was here at 6:30 a.m. to get it all ready.) A lady who hadn’t voted yet, walked in behind me to choose a cookie. Without introducing herself she sort of blurted out, “I love coming to vote here, this is the best precinct in the county! “ The judges who have to stay here until the polls close have expressed this same sentiment. When you think about it… being a polling place when you are a church is one time when everybody from the neighborhood comes over to your house for something important...of course we want to be gracious.
It doesn’t take all that much to be gracious. A little attention like asking yourself, “What would people enjoy after listening to political ads for months?” and coming up with, COOKIES! Being gracious is being willing to also take that little extra effort it sometimes takes to make something good happen. I don’t want to embarrass Don but just sayin’ he’s usually not here at 6:30 a.m. Rick might be, but it’s a little early for the rest of us.
This is the season of the year when we explore how we are going to be gracious to and with our neighbors. Now I’ll admit that is not usually what we call our annual Stewardship Campaign but it is one way to see it. “How Much is Enough?” is our theme for this year. It’s an invitation for us to be gracious to our neighbors by being the church Christ is calling us to become. Like the time last year when we bought pastry treats for all the bus drivers at the school district’s garage that is literally in our backyard. Paying attention to the needs of our neighbors does not have to be “rocket science.” It does take a little extra attention and a little extra effort. And that is what we will do during the stewardship campaign; we take a look at how we want to be gracious and the extra effort that it will take on all of our parts to continue to be big enough to make a difference and small enough to care.
This Sunday we will have a chance to see what it has meant for us to be gracious to our neighbors in a very far away place. We are excited to have a couple who are missionaries we have supported for a very long time. Ardell & Gordon Graner have served in Bolivia and now are serving in the Dominican Republic. They are a very gracious couple, originally from North Dakota. Ardell & Gordon have a story to tell that is worth hearing about; among other things how it is we who live in this culture of abundance can be gracious and learn from other cultures.
Keep the Faith!