Welcome to winter! There are several inches of snow on the ground, and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the song goes. Welcome also to the season of Advent, a time when we prepare our hearts for the spiritual coming of Christ. We remember his birth in Bethlehem, and prepare for a time when he will come again.
Just on the cusp of Advent, one week ago, 14 members of Reconciler participated in a remarkable retreat at the Cenacle in Lincoln Park. The themes of the retreat were leadership and discernment. Our retreat was grounded in Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. We stayed overnight Friday night and met all day Saturday, while the snow flew. On Friday evening, Amy Knickrehm, a member of the Community of the Holy Trinity who has worked with the Christian Peacemakers, led us in a workshop on the consensus model for group decision-making. Amy gave us an overview of the consensus model. Reconciler member Charity Ryerson then led us through a role play to help us put into practice this new information.
Saturday morning we started out with lectio divina, reading aloud and sharing our responses to a passage from 1 Corinthians 12: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...If one member suffers, all suffer together wth it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it."
We then shared questions we had brought with us to the retreat. These were questions about church and Christian leadership, 1st Corinthians, and how we make decisions as the Body of Christ. We found that we had one overarching question: "Who are we as a church, who is God calling us to be, and how do we discern that?"
After Eucharist with the Cenacle sisters and lunch, we regrouped to tackle that question. We took turns talking about why we had first come to Reconciler and why we stayed. Some very important things emerged from this conversation. First, we heard common themes that help us define who we are and what draws people to our church:
"ecumenism, flexibility, strong liturgy, solid preaching, historical orthodoxy, women pastors, real, small & new, great music, different but with substance, meditative, goth pastor, Bible study, a place we can invite a range of people, good blog, pink hair, delightfully eccentric, good pastoral care, the people here."
In the course of that conversation, some of our weaknesses as a congregation, as well as our strengths, emerged. Some said they would like to see our church demonstrate a better balance of heart and head, and more effectively care for each other and offer hospitality to newcomers.
We came up with concrete goals to remedy that: 1) The pastors will clarify our availability for pastoral care, and will continue to reach out to newcomers and those in any need or trouble. We will get a common cell phone that each pastor will carry when he or she is on call. That way, members need only remember one phone number, and can always reach a pastor for pastoral care and emergencies. 2) We will work to be open with one another and take care of each other in the spirit of genuine Christian agape (unconditional love) as described in 1 Corinthians 13. 3) We will get together at least once every other week, targeting Wednesdays, for informal faith-sharing and fellowship. Jeremy John is creating a "list serve" so that all members can receive emails about where and when these will occur. 4) We will have a "coffee hour" -- with or without coffee -- where we hang out together for 30 minutes after the Sunday service. 5) We will have greeters who stand by the front doors of the church to help direct newcomers to our service. 6) Some members of the congregation will assist in putting things away after the service to allow the pastors more time to meet with people and offer pastoral care as needed.
From the Pastoral Team's persective, some very important things came from this retreat. Those gathered did a good job defining who we are as a church and where we need to grow. In that process, people took risks and were responsive to each other. The lay members seemed to feel empowered, recognizing that every-member ministry and ownership is key to healthy congregational functioning. All of us are Christian leaders. Also, those gathered recognized that central to this enterprise of church is having a spirit of love for and amongst one another. This is not a corny or sentimental kind of love, but an active spirit of caring and understanding that can in fact be quite challenging. It also creates a very appealing environment, both for those inside our church and those who might wish to join.
Speaking personally, I was delighted by the retreat and like my co-pastor Larry, emerged refreshed. It was a good balance of productive sessions, shared worship, socializing, and "alone" time. I got to know people better. It was heartening to see that through an organic process of asking and trying to answer our own questions as a group, we could emerge with some very healthy anwers. Some of them were humbling to hear, others affirming, but all very helpful.
Godspeed, Good Ship Reconciler.
"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal...Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love never ends....And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." -- 1 Corinthians 13
Advent Blessings and Love,
The Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
for the Pastoral Team,Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler
Larry is on call this month (December) for pastoral care and pastoral emergencies. He can be reached at email@example.com
While Larry is away Christmas eve through December 31, Laura will be on call. She will also be on call in January. Laura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the pastors' availability and contact #'s is being sent out in an email to the congregation.
Sunday December 9th there is a brief congregational meeting, directly following worship, to present and approve the slate of officers for our church council that will be up for election at our annual meeting at the end of January.
Discernment Committee meets Monday December 17th at the 'Nidge at 7:30 p.m..
Council meets Thursday, December 20 at the 'Nidge at 7:30 p.m.
Immanuel is looking for volunteers from Reconciler who can assist with the Altar Guild and the Buildings and Grounds committees.
4th advent December 23 we will be having a joint worship service with Immanuel and St Elias, at St Elias' worship time of 1:30 PM.
We will not worship at our normal time of 5 PM. We are invited to come to a brunch at 11:30 put on by Immanuel and also a Christmas dinner organized by St Elias after the service. Come eat and worship all day! :-) If you would be interested in helping out the preparation and organization of either meals, let us know and we will get your name to the people in charge of organizing the meals.
The Pastoral Team
The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler