Here we go! After months of conversation and prayerful discernment by the congregation, we are beginning the visioning process with the Center for Healthy Churches. When the deacons first began discussing this over a year ago, none of us could have imagined the journey that UBC would undertake in the months following. The last year has had its share of challenges. We have grieved the departure of many members from our fellowship. Most of us, at least once in the last year, have probably wondered “are we going to make it?” I sure had my days of doubts and sleepless nights.
But you know what—I believe we are more ready than ever to begin leaning into our future. We have already welcomed a record number of new members into our community this year, and still have four months to go. We have celebrated that UBC remains committed to the core of its identity, to be a community centered on the love of Jesus with doors open wide to all people. Just this past Sunday we had four young adults visiting our church, three of them said they came because of our billboard. Through all that we have experienced, I sense a renewed joy percolating throughout the congregation. I cannot help but think of words from Isaiah 61: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon us… to give us a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” New life is rising out of the ashes of this past year. While preparing to begin our congregational meetings, my prayer is that Holy Spirit will be upon us in fresh and vibrant ways. Acts 2 tells us that the Spirit comes to give us visions and dreams. If we continue to pray for Holy Spirit’s presence, we might find that our collective imagination is opened as we gather for the sake of our shared future and our commitment to the mission God has given us.
As we pray for Holy Spirit to be among us, I recall some of my favorite words from Annie Dillard (I’ve quoted them before):
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can
Yes, if we are going to pray for Holy Spirit then we better begin to prepare for God to draw us out and to take us on a surprising and thrilling journey.
I sure hope you plan to join UBC for all that is ahead…