John 15:12-17 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Cheers (Theme song)
Making your way in the world today, Takes everything you got
Taking a break from all your worries, It sure would help a lot
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came, You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same, You want to be where everybody knows your name
You want to go where people know, The people are all the same
You want to go where everybody knows your name
The Second Mountain by David Brooks
“Brooks tells the story of David Simpson and Kathy Fletcher and their Washington-based nonprofit, AOK (All Our Kids). Simpson and Fletcher have taken in dozens of teenagers facing adverse circumstances and formed a community. Brooks eats dinner with them on Thursday nights, observing how the communal table — the listening, supportive words and sense of belonging — changes lives.”
Minister’s Report – Executive Board Meeting May 13, 2019
When I began my journey here at Bethany on December 13, 2015 I embarked on an effort to visit every household, to listen, to share and to connect. This effort led me to many kitchen tables, living rooms, coffee shops and a few visits to the church office. On more than a few occasions people would quiz me on why I wanted to visit, “do you know something I don’t know” or “did someone put you up to this?” or “is this part of a fundraising campaign?” or “are you checking up on me to see why I am not always in church?” My answers were; no, no, no and no. Each time the conversation took on an organic flow, and I would never know where it would go. Sometimes it led to deep and meaningful conversation, sometimes we only scratched the surface. But in each case it started something, and most important it laid the ground work for more conversations.
As you likely know by now I am not one to be moved by grievance. So suggesting “how come you visited her/him before me” and “you visited so and so longer than me” and “when am I going to have my visit?” don’t make much impact on me. I offered, on some occasions I offered several times. People are adults, and everyone knows where to find me, I always return calls. Further, I am always open to more conversation, I don’t need to be the one who always initiates the talk.
But the best conversations at Bethany are the ones that don’t include me. I hear all the time of people receiving an unexpected visit or phone call from someone they barely knew in the church. That’s how friendships begin. And that’s how we learn about God’s big world, from others. Many have told me you first learned about mental illness, homelessness, grief, new Canadians and music from others in your conversations. I love the Muffin Club, the Strum Group, Susan’s yoga group, the youth group, the choir, the bell choir, the group who go out for lunch after church (they need a name!), to list but a few.
Again, what I have learned about church is this, it’s a place where people come searching for Spirit-filled community. I am no expert. My role here at Bethany is simple and profound, I listen to others and seek to make connections between people. I introduce people to others. I don’t need to be there and you will find I will sometimes become somewhat invisible so the conversations don’t need to run through me. The more the connections, the more the conversations, the more the care and laughter, the more the Spirit is alive.
David Brooks in his new book “The Second Mountain” reflects on the need for community, moral, spiritual and honest community. Community requires genuine interest in the other, it requires humility (I don’t know but others do) and it requires reaching out. Community also requires compromise. My goal here at Bethany is not that it goes my way, I assume that being rather odd most people aren’t going to share my views. But I do expect that we are going to create something organic, creative and sustaining.
All of this to say that since our last meeting I have visited new and familiar, grief stricken and full of life and excitement, people thrilled with what is happening at Bethany and people with concerns. I have led a study on helping people understand their theology and preached on the lectionary as it related to what is going on in our lives and the world we live in. At least I tried. No one can say I left them hanging, I return all calls, emails and messages. Those connections are important.
People ask me if I am tired. I say no, except for meetings. Otherwise I find the process of building community, helping foster connections and being present in good times and bad to be a gift. And what does one say to a gift? Thank you.