Last night we had a good time at the Swanson's for a BBQ potluck supper. We watched the video put out Churches Supporting Churches the organization North Shore Baptist Church is working with as it joins in a partnership with a church, New Home Baptist Church in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. Following the video we had a good discussion, and those of us present concluded it was a good thing to continue to explore.
Some points were raised in the discussion that I think were separate from Churches Supporting Churches and the possibility of partnering with North Shore. What follows is what I was hearing about our identity and what we want to be involved with, the order of this list is has no meaning in terms of importance or logical sequence. What do we have the energy and resources to do as a small congregation? Do we know what we want to do? What are we about? As an ecumenical congregation are there points of theology or stances of other congregations or churches that would prevent us from partnering or working with them? Does our character as an Ecumenical congregation effect what we do and how we do it. How many people from our small congregation need to be involved in something for us to claim we are committed to it as a congregation? What are our current involvement and commitments and how does that limit or determine what we should do. Should we take on at this point in time new commitments/projects?
I think these are good questions to ask and to together find some answers. I encourage us all to be thinking about these things and talking about these things with each other. To facilitate this I'd like to take a moment describe what we have done we are doing and point us to our vision documents that tell us who we are and would like to be. While our vision documents were written before most of you came they in the least have lead us to where we are at now and should help us get clear on who we are and what we are about. Our vision statements (http://christreconciler.blogspot.com/2006/02/church-of-jesus-christ-reconciler.html, http://christreconciler.blogspot.com/2006/02/our-vision.html , if you'd like hard copies of these let the pastoral team know.) put our Ecumenical character and our worship as the central and main characteristic of Reconciler. In this we are seeking to witness to the broad historic faith of the whole Church as well as living in three particular traditions of the Faith. This does not exclude being involved in various types of advocacy, or relief and charity, or actively seeking to redress injustices, but it does place these things in context of worship that reflects and proclaims the faith once delivered tot he saints in our time. This I think is reflected in what we do. Our most consistent activity is our worship on Sundays, and our joint worship services with Immanuel and St. Elias. From the stand point of our vision statements the work of the social Action committee or the church council (and all else we do) should come out of our worship together around word and table.
Over time We have been involved in various things. The social action committee has attempted various things: encouraged members to volunteer with the Centro Romero here in Edgewatter which some of us did for a time, and few may still do on occasion. We had a drive for kitchen utensils for Sarah's circle in which we partnered with North Shore Baptist Church and Community Church of Wilmette, we took part in the Jubilee USA grassroots conference and took part in some of their writing campaigns to congressional representatives seeking to expand debt relief. We had a Christian formation series with Immanuel on Interfaith relations with Islam and Judaism. We have had bible studies on various topics. We have had a panel discussion on Fair Trade. We have had booths at two Chicago Summer neighborhood festivals. Through are pastoral team we are members of Edgewater Religious Community Association, which supports and advises a food pantry, Care for Real, and Eppworth Homeless shelter for men. Also through the pastoral team we were present with Immanuel at the Organization of the Northeast conference and a prayer vigil to urge Alderwoman Mary Ann Smith to take seriously the community proposal for Senn High school. We have a yearly congregational retreat. We have occasional gatherings either planed by individual or by the church council for fellowship together; potlucks, breakfasts, going for supper after church.
I think the above list if not exhaustive give us a good idea of where our energies have gone and do go. In writing all that down there is a sense that this is a large variety of things without an obvious specific central idea guiding it. Unless the multiplicity genuinely reflects our desire to have our life together focused on our worship seeking to come from our worship to proclaim the faith as an ecumenical and diverse congregation this diversity may be misplaced. There are advantages and disadvantages to this variety of activity: As an ecumenical congregation we can engage a variety of organizations and causes across various distinctions and divisions, seek live out our life ecumenically working with an ecumenical organization like ECRA and its related organizations. Our members can be involved in a variety of things and we can say that these are things that Reconciler is about. The disadvantage is that it can have a lack of focus and it may be difficult to see how these various things fit into our ecumenical character and the centrality of our worship. Also, in the above there may be to much reliance on our Sunday evening gathering for worship and we may want to ask ourselves if we need more than just a yearly retreat as a congregation to help us deepen our faith and help us make the connection between our worship and how we are going out and living out and proclaiming our faith in deed and word. We may need to give some attention of our spiritual lives together that can help us grow together and deepen our engagement with our worship.
My hope is that this can stimulate some discussion amongst ourselves and help us get clear about who we are and what we want to be about (given our vision as it stand it could be multiple things that only a few of us are involved in supported by all of us, or we could choose to focus ourselves for a time). I hope as we come together on Sundays, or at festivals or social gatherings over the next couple of months that we would attempt to think together about these things and be able to come to the church council with questions or suggestions and gain clarity about who we are as a congregation and how we want to continue to grow in Christ and our faith and life together.
Our Council meets next Thursday July 17th 7:30 PM at the 'Nidge. All are welcome to attend and bring things to discuss.
This Sunday July 13th we are at the Clark Street Festival, see the sign up sheet that has been sent around or talk with Daniel or Kate about signing up to staff the booth. We will have our regular service at 5 PM and be leaving the Festival in time for church that evening.
Jorge Sanchez is preaching this Sunday July 13th.
August 23rd and 24th we will have a booth at the Glenwood Arts Festival in Rogers Park. We are looking for artists of all media to contribute. Talk with Larry about showing your art. Talk with Daniel and Kate about staffing the booth when we get closer to the festival.
Pastors vacations: Larry will be taking a week vacation between July 21 and 27. Laura will on a weekend trip the weekend of July 20 th and then be away on vacation from August 24th through August 30th.
We are planning a panel discussion on homelessness on September 11th. Talk with Jeremy or attend the next meeting of the Social Action Committee if you are interested in helping planning the panel.
The Pastoral Team