Friday, December 3, 2010

December Newsletter article: Creating our legacy - The Year of Our Youth

Advent is a time of waiting in quiet confidence for the voice of God to speak a new thing into being. Scripture tells us that just as God once spoke all of creation into being, God is constantly renewing the face of the earth, recreating according to a plan that is perfect, full of mercy and loving kindness, and always beyond our ability to imagine. I believe that. I have seen it. I am seeing it now.

A year and a half ago, I was in a search for a new call, a call that led me to Redeemer. My search came down to two very different churches – Redeemer and a large, urban church in Michigan. I was clear (or at least I thought I was clear) that I felt called to a larger church in an urban setting with active ministries and a support staff of clergy and laity. The other church had all that. Redeemer did not. Yet, it was Redeemer’s call I was prayerfully compelled to accept. Everything I had ever learned and done in my personal and professional lives was being called for here at Redeemer, and the love building in my heart for Redeemer eventually took precedence over all other considerations.

As I have walked with Redeemer from where we were then until now, I have been guided by a vision of Redeemer’s shining future – a future glorifying God and serving God’s people – a future God has already inaugurated. Now I can look back and see that I had understood my call rightly. I just couldn’t have imagined it as being manifest at Redeemer – but God could, and did.

Redeemer has all it needs to become a large church with active ministries - not that there’s anything wrong with being a small church. But years ago, the people of Redeemer heard and answered a call to build facilities meant for something big. Those facilities have already begun receiving the big-ness of the ministries they were designed for: The Shepherd’s Table and Food Pantry are now serving almost 500 weekly. That’s BIG! Way bigger than we ever imagined!

We have all we need. God has blessed the people of Redeemer (of every age and status) with an abundance of gifts meant for service in the name of Christ. Good thing too – because there are people all around us right here, right now, who are searching for a church that is truly welcoming, grounded in faith not fear, and ready to receive the gifts they bring – a church that is focused on serving God, not just itself. These people are beginning to present themselves to us. All we need to do is open our arms of love to them, embrace them, and welcome them home. We also have people among us who have been on the fringes for months or years, waiting to re-start their lives of ministry. Redeemer’s ministry of hospitality is being recreated now to serve all of them – and it’s going to be BIG. Way bigger than we can imagine.

But the biggest thing of all, I think, is this: 2011 is being declared The Year of Our Youth. When we first discerned our ministries together (remember those purple sheets?) our first priority was to establish a feeding ministry. Check. Our second priority had to do with our children. We said we wanted a space in the nave set aside where young children could see the altar, play quietly on a carpet with kid-sized chairs, and have a little freedom to move around as children do without disrupting the worship experience of others. We said we wanted a playground so that our young members’ energy could be expended safely and in the presence of symbols of our faith (remembering that the grounds are an exterior worship space).

The goal of The Year of Our Youth is to build in our children and youth what we spent last year building in our adults: a sense of their identity as Christians who are Episcopalian along with mission-mindedness and real opportunities to serve. This too has already been inaugurated: our Children’s Chapel space is nearly ready and worship there is set to begin again on a once-a-month basis in January. We have dedicated a room in the newly refurbished undercroft for our teen-aged youth that will give them a “space of their own.” This space needs to be filled with the kinds of technology that will help in their formation as Christians: audio, video, karaoke, TV, DVD player, etc.

We have offered the Rotation Model - a format for Christian Formation that is limited only by our imagination and allows for many people to share their gifts three weeks at a time – a very manageable commitment. There are lesson plans ready for any who want them to enable them to answer this call to serve. We are also about to begin incorporating the gifts of our children and youth in the worship services in new ways, making manifest our belief that Baptism is full membership in our church.

The Year of Our Youth promises to be BIG – way bigger than we can imagine now. But then again, who could have imagined that salvation would come to the world by a baby born of a poor, unwed teen in a small town? God could – and did.

As we practice the seasons of Advent and Christmas together, let’s let go of all that hinders us or God’s plan for us. We can do that “in unity, constancy, and peace” as our Eucharistic Prayer says, because we know that God is constantly renewing the face of the earth, recreating us according to a plan that is perfect, full of mercy and loving kindness, and always beyond our ability to imagine.

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