A new Sunday experience for the new year

In our ongoing work of envisioning the next years at St Luke, we’ve noticed that people are busy and our time together on Sunday becomes increasingly important.  Does our Sunday experience reflect our mission statement – that we’re a “Christian community extending God’s love and compassion, welcoming all to share the joy of faith in Jesus Christ?”

We’ve worked on enriching the Sunday experience in multiple ways: in forums about worship with guests such as a Dr. Clay Schmit, who spoke of his experiences as a Lutheran teacher at an Evangelical Seminary; and a study of Worship Matters.  

We’ve renewed our worship with new experiences such as an Easter Vigil, RIC Sunday and joint Korean-English service.  

And we’ve developed our music program: I think of the work of Lisa Curtis involving vocalists and instrumentalists of all ages, whether it’s Karl on trombone or Randy on guitar  – matched with the versatility of Bettie Ross and John Magnussen, playing the new organ, the vibes or the spoons (that’s right, straight from the kitchen – you should have seen it!).  At one point many churches only had access to two styles of music: “traditional” hymns with thees and thous, or “contemporary” Christian pop mostly borrowed from Evangelical traditions.  Our repertoire has expanded.  Now, we regularly use a folky “Lord Jesus you shall be my song” from L’arche communities, a Holy Holy from El Salvador.  When we sing Amazing Grace, it may be with irish pipes or in a gospel style.

Joint service with Grace Road

Joint service with Grace Road

Worship is also enriched by presence of people: newcomers as well as long time members.  One of the new members said at a recent dialogue that although she likes the music at both services, what’s most important to her is the presence of the community.

So now, we are planning the next step forward in our Sunday experience, which we plan to start the first Sunday in February: a new schedule with one worship service in place of two.  8:30-9:30 rehearsals.  9:30-10:30 worship.  10:30-11 coffee hour.  10:45-11:30 education.

How did this decision come about?  For the past two Summers, we’ve gone to one 9:30 service, and many people appreciated the experience.  This fall, the church council shared a proposal for a 9:30 service year round, inviting concerns and thoughts through an online survey and by hosting two dialogues.  Council members Suco, Brad, David, Linda, Megan and Sue (with Lisa’s help) did a fantastic job of listening to participants and taking careful notes.  Many members showed great sensitivity to the opinions and feelings of others.  We had a good showing of people who currently attend both 8:30 and 10:45 worship at these dialogues.  Our final poll showed that a clear majority of dialogue participants were in favor of the change.

At the Easter Vigil

So what will be the advantages of doing this?  To briefly state what was in the proposal: First, that we get to be together for worship and fellowship.  Although we are growing slowly, at this point we fit pretty easily in the sanctuary – and it’s good when we can have children, the elderly, young adults, newcomers etc. present together.  Second, since there is general openness to different styles of music, worshipers who enjoy both organ and drums, get both. Third, because when we come together there are more gifts to share – a congregation of our size is stretched thin in providing altar guild, vocalists, coffee hour, and so on for two services.  Instead of using her time to prepare and play a second service, Bettie Ross will focus on organizing and arranging instrumental ensembles for the 9:30 service. And fourth, to free up more of the Sunday morning time for other activities. This way, there’s time not just between services but both before and after worship for meetings, studies, forums, rehearsals, etc…

What will worship be like?  Similar to what we’ve experienced in the Summer.  There will be some organ and percussion at most services.  Lively and meaningful music will be chosen that brings out the theme of the scripture readings.  We might try varying the style by season (more Christmasy during Christmas, folky during Summer, etc…)

It will take some time to grow into this.  St Luke has a long history with two services, and at times the two services have been pretty different from one another.  Some may be in rapture listening to an organ prelude while others just endure it.  But it’s good to be challenged with our differences!  A wonderful scripture reading for us during this time – often heard at weddings, even though it was really written to address Christians learning to worship together  – is from 1st Corinthians: “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. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

This doesn’t mean we’ll stay with one service for good.  Going to the new schedule and common worship is also a way to be together as we discern God’s call for mission.  At some point it may become clear that it’s time for a new alternative worship or other experience that fits contemporary Woodland Hills: Coffee house worship around tables in the fellowship hall?  Contemplative evening prayer with meditation on scripture?  Something else?

Sanctuary repair / redesign efforts are still also underway!  We have for some time been working on plans to fix the floor and windows, to make the altar area more accessible, to improve the sound system, hide the organ speakers, and generally make that space work better for how we worship.  One good possibility we’ve been talking about is moving the altar down the stairs.  For now – in February – we’ll use the altar where it is. The process has its own blog.  You will see proposed plans soon (along the lines of what we’ve been sharing at annual meetings, etc..).

Blessings! – Pastor Hillesland

Worship Matters – learning opportunity and theme, Epiphany and the Sundays following …

wmatters

A brief course-book “developed to help participants grow into a richer understanding of the foundations of Lutheran worship. With a focus on the principal gathering around word and sacrament, this course explores the foundational questions about why we gather, how we encounter God in worship, and how that encounter shapes our response in both our communities and our world. Topics include the Church Year, the Lectionary, Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, Corporate Prayer, Worship and Culture, and more.”
We’ll have a stack available, $7 each, check made out to St Luke for: Christian education.

Why do you go to worship? Why does your church use so many scripture readings? Why do you have communion every Sunday? Always pray the Lord’s prayer right before?

You’re new to church, you come in and someone hands you a bulletin: page after page of songs, prayers, standing, sitting, italicized instructions, and you think to yourself “what is all this?” It may feel like you’ve just walked into orchestra practice, viola in hand, and been given a score. It’s perhaps a good parallel: we’re not here as an audience at a show, but as participants, to play: and there is depth and richness to these traditions, songs,and how it all fits together. And yet, it’s really pretty simple, and life-giving, as we learn it.

Each Sunday, from January 6th to February 10th:

  • During worship, scripture and sermon as well as bulletin front cover and interior text will help explain one aspect of worship – so we think about what we do in a new way.
  • At around 9:45am (between services) there will be opportunities for training in various aspects of worship assistance, including two new roles: homebound communion distribution, and assisting minister (see below).
  • “Worship Matters,” an accessible new curriculum / book from Augsburg Fortress – written by young leaders in the ELCA – will be made available and connect to Sunday worship and discussions.

January 6th –Why Do We Worship?
“Minimalist Worship Service” – this one Sunday, worship is simplified to the bare essence of what we do. (Think of a Japanese teahouse with bare floor and simple furnishings …)
Scripture: Wise men come from the East to worship Jesus.
Themes: Why worship? Is it required when you’re a Christians? Why do we worship with this pattern, which is so different from other Christians? Does it really matter?

January 13th – Encountering God in Word.
Scripture: At Jesus’ baptism, he hears a voice: “this is my Son the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Themes: What’s the “Word of God,” and what does it have to do with the Bible? Why do we use a lectionary of assigned readings? What’s a sermon, and what do I listen for? Why follow seasons of the church year?
Training: Lectors, possibly Cantors / Song leaders.

January 19th (Saturday), 10am, fellowship hall – Communion instruction for kids. Instruction in the meaning and practice of Holy Communion is lifelong! For those kids (age 6 and up) who haven’t begun this learning, join us for this fun, interactive time of learning with Pastor Hillesland!

January 20th – Encountering God in the Sacraments
Scripture: At Cana Jesus turns water into wine.
Themes: What’s a Sacrament? Mystery or Magic? Closer look at the Rite of Holy Communion – why every week? What do all those prayers mean before Communion? Why kneel? Stand?
Training, introducing a new ministry: Communion to homebound members. Once a month (or as often as we can) the congregation – during worship – prays over bread and wine, body and blood of Christ, as they are sent out among people who can’t make it to church. That day, or shortly thereafter, volunteers bring the sacrament. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected beyond our doors! Join us if you are interested in learning about this ministry – no commitment necessary.

January 27th – RIC Sunday. Paul says every part of the body is necessary to worship. On this Sunday – celebrated in common by Reconciled in Christ congregations throughout the nation – we recommit to our welcome statement.

February 3rd – Worship and the World.
Scripture: Jeremiah and Jesus are sent into the world. Paul says “love does not insist on its own way.”
Themes: What does worship have to do with love for our neighbor? Why do we sing music from other cultures?
Training: Ushers and Greeters.

February 10th – Prayer and Praise.
Scripture: On the mountain of Transfiguration, the disciples came to silence in the presence of God.
Themes: Posture and gestures in worship (kneeling, prayer, sign of the cross). What’s the prayer of the day? Why do we do intercessions that way? Where is there silence in worship?
Training: new role, Assisting Ministers – a new role for St Luke. Assisting ministers represent the people before God, primarily by preparing and leading the prayers of the people (currently read by lectors). They also lead other prayers, such as the Kyrie, Offertory and Dismissal. They assist at communion. Again, come if you are interested, no commitment necessary.

Sundays this Summer

Sundays really matter. That’s one conviction we’ve articulated in this year’s work of envisioning the future at St Luke. What’s behind this conviction? First, we know how busy people are, “stretched” into every corner of LA. Many people can’t make midweek church activities. Obviously, members as well as visitors interested in St Luke are more likely to come for worship than anything else.
Second, and most importantly, Sundays matter because of what we do and celebrate together, “the feast of victory for our God:” we hear the scriptures proclaimed, celebrate baptism, pray for loved ones, make music, collect for the hungry, share the peace and the Lord’s supper, have fellowship, Sunday School. In these activities – as we say in our mission statement – we “welcome all to share the joy of faith in Jesus Christ,” and find ways to “extend God’s love and compassion.”

This Summer, there are two ways we hope to enrich our Sundays:

First, for thirteen weeks – from June 10th to September 2nd – instead of the usual two worship services, there will be one Sunday service at 9:30am. Going from two services to one may sound like “cutting back,” and indeed, we want musicians, altar guild and others to have a little less to do. But I look forward to the experience. Both our 8:30 and our 10:45 services have been evolving – not to fit any pre-determined category (“contemporary” or “traditional”) but organically – as we seek to lift up the gifts of children and adults, guitarists or flautists. Now, as in the Christmas concert, pageants, Holy Week services – we “join forces.” Our hope is that both 8:30 and 10:45 services to be richer in music and practice when we go back to two services in the fall. For more about the planned format of the 9:30 service, see below …

There’s a second way we are growing into making Sundays matter. A small group has come together to lead us into some discussions on our worship space. Why? A number of issues and worship changes: the choir no longer using the loft, the need to think about the future of the organ – which is no longer in good shape – and where a possible new organ would be placed, maintenance issues with the linoleum; accessibility to chancel / altar area, etc… Rather than take these issues one by one, we decided it would be best for us to look at the big picture. While we’re at it, we can carry forward some of our learning from adult forums these past several years, on renewing worship and sacred art. What does our space communicate? How does God promise to meet us there? What are the powerful experiences that we’ve had in the sanctuary that we want to build on?
There will be two phases two “phases” to begin this work. First, thee will be a time of learning and looking at the situation. Sybil Buff, Janis Hatlestad, Lynn Gertenbach and myself will seek to solicit your insights in discussion at Sunday forums and consult with musicians, children, visitors, former members, altar guild, property folks. Only after we have spent some time thinking will we begin coming up with proposals.
We have created a page where you can follow along and join in on the conversation: stlukeworshipspace.wordpress.com. One easy way to access this site is by going to our website, click “online newsletter,” then “worship space” in the upper right hand corner.

Summer worship will be at 9:30am, June 10th through September 2nd

8:45am rehearsal for the musicians
9:30-10:30 worship
10:30 coffee hour in the fellowship hall
10:45 some rehearsals for next week’s music
10:45 forums on worship space most Sundays (see front page article)

What’s it going to be like? The order of service will be familiar to all. We’re choosing some music that will be familiar to 8:30 and to 10:45 participants, and introducing some new music. The style, you could say, is “Summer.” The approach isn’t so much to include “a little this and a little that” so much as appealing music of diverse style that really fits together.
Expect a learnable weekly pattern of music that’s South African, Scandinavian, American Gospel, and Celtic, – with multiple instruments – along with special music and hymns that connect to the scripture readings: stories of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark – about his healing, calming the sea, sending out his disciples –and about prophets like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos and Elisha; the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus as the “bread of life.”

How can I help? One goal is to involve many musicians. If you haven’t tried music before, or been able commit to a music group during the year, this is a great way to try it out! You can commit even to just one Sunday – help to lead singing, play an instrument. We’ll be having special rehearsals to introduce to the music the first two Wednesday evenings in June. On the Sundays when you’re “on” you just show up a little early to rehearse, and if possible, also after worship the week before.

“I am the vine, you are the branches”

A Sermon … May 6th, 2012. Texts: Acts 8:26-40, Psalm 22:25-31, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8

When we pray, it can be hard to focus. All the concerns of the day come to mind: when am I going to get to the store? I should call so and so. And always, that one thought: is this prayer the best use of my time? I’ve got stuff to get done. What should I do? “Be with God? Or be productive?”

Jesus says, “to be with me, IS to be productive. Abide in me, and you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Martin Luther – the Reformer – was a seriously stressed out man, what with threats on his life and the collapse of Christendom all around him. And he said that on days when he was especially busy, he wouldn’t “drop prayer time,” he would add an extra hour. I guess it’s about humility – “how important is my work, in the scheme of things?” And it’s about trust – that God’s infinitely more capable of taking care of our business, than we are.

So, maybe instead of going to Trader Joe’s, I’ll use the time to read over a psalm. But can I expect God to run my errand for me? We need milk – will it appear, miraculously, in the fridge? Maybe not. Maybe we go without milk until tomorrow, but my kids’ have a more calm Dad.

Again, bigger picture, here – maybe what I think is important, isn’t what God thinks is important: God’s kingdom come, God’s will done. What we human beings can accomplish is impressive: golden gate bridges, symphonies, nuclear weapons. But what God can accomplish? God can make grapes! God is a horticulturalist, says Jesus – and he’s not the first to say so. Prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel used the same analogy: God “planted” his priestly people, Israel, like a vine in the midst of the nations. I think Dark grape (pogórze bukowskie)it’s a lovely image for God:

Vines mean grapes – and grapes mean wine – and whatever our relationship may be to alcohol now – in the ancient world, wine meant “joy” and “good times.”

So, rethink the basic questions: What’s the Bible about? A God who plants a vine – Israel and its Christ – and tends the grapes, sees it grow through hard times, to give the world can have a happy feast. And what’s Easter all about? The bursting of life through the soil. The Resurrection: it’s not just what happened to one man back then. Or even what happens to us, someday. Easter is present-tense. He is now my vine. “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age,” to quote a poem way out of context. He is my life – he gives life to others, through me. Who am I? What are we all about? Not what I make of myself. I am what God makes of me. A branch of the vine. I am God’s way of bringing other people joy.

Jesus says “apart from me, you can do nothing.” That hits hard. Nothing? What about all the stuff on my resume? “Graduated at the top of my class.” “Doubled profits at my previous company, in just three years.” All that distinguishes me from the rest of the pile of resumes? That shows what I can accomplish? What if we put on our resume’: “Rooted in Christ,” maybe up at the top. Probably not a good idea. But Jesus says, “apart from me, you can do nothing.” God can use our strengths and our weaknesses and even our normalcy. This Gospel passage really lifts up the value of all people. We need the vine – but how can a vine produce grapes without branches? We are his presence and joy in the world!

Churches know what it means, when Jesus says “can do nothing.” We can’t be the “ethnic enclave” we once were before. We can’t be the “social club” we were to previous generations. So, we wonder, what now? Jesus says “abide in me, and you will bear much fruit.” Your life is as close as I am. So, how do we do that, what does “abide” mean?

Basically, “stay connected,” right? It’s pretty obvious – a branch has to stay connected to the vine if there are to be grapes. We have nothing to give anyone, except what he gives to us. Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus uses the same word- “abide” – when he says “I am the bread of life. Those who eat of my flesh and drink of my blood abide in me, and I abide in them.” This table is our life – it’s where we become what he needs us to be.

Jesus also says “if you continue with my word,” and that word – continue – is really the same word, abide – “if you abide with my word, you are truly my followers, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” So – when we hear Jesus’ words – his love for us – he is with us, and we are with him. That was the Gospel reading for Reformation Sunday, when we remember why we are Lutherans.

And it fits with Martin Luther’s practice of meditation. Luther would study and translate the Bible with great insight, maybe use the Bible in arguments against opponents. But he also taught people to “meditate on it.” This just means saying the words – out loud – maybe repeating them, not just trying to “figure them out” but waiting for the meaning to “show up,” for the Holy Spirit to speak. And maybe that won’t happen in a clear way today. Think of how long it took for Christians to see clearly in the Bible that slavery is wrong – centuries. It may take awhile for the grapes to show up.

Mostly, I think, that word “abide” just means “stay with, hang out.” Over and over in the story, we hear that Jesus went and “stayed, abided, with the Samaritans for two days.” Or the first followers – when they still weren’t sure about Jesus – how they went and “stayed” in his house for awhile. What happened there? What did they talk about? What did they do? Who knows. What matters, is that they were together.

When you’re a kid and your Dad says “we’re going to visit Uncle Harold,” you ask, “but what is there to do?” Does he have games to play? Videos to watch?” And Dad says “we’re just going to visit.” Which maybe means “hang out on an old red couch and listen to grownup chitchat” or maybe “eat coldcuts and sweet pickles.” But later, looking back, you appreciate the memories of your Uncle’s house, what it looked like and smelled like, that you got to know him, in some way.
Jesus says, here, “abide in my love,” his love for us, ours for one another. Be together with the rest of the vine. The author of 1st John says, “God IS Love. And those who abide in love, abide in God.” Apart from me, you can do nothing.

Whatever it is we end up doing with our life – the best we can be is probably what we are to our uncles. Or think of what grandkids mean to their grandparents – even when they’re “bored,” curled up on the old couch and wondering “what is there to do?” they’re still a delight to those who love them. The most we have to offer to each other and the world is who we are – branches, breaking forth in clusters of sweet grapes. Fine wine. Joy. Good times.”

“Abide in me – as I abide in you.” Even if our minds are somewhere else. We’re bored. Or thinking about the errands we have to take care of. Wondering how we will ever get through the day. He already abides with us, delights in us, hears our concerns.

Remember the 1st chapter of John’s Gospel? “In the beginning was the Word – through him all things were made – and without him, not one thing came into being.” If we are anything, we are his, and his life is ours. Thanks be to God!

Lenten devotions to explore vision for flourishing

As part of our soup suppers – Wednesdays at 6pm – 7:30pm, evening prayer at the end –  members of St Luke – including Megan Gillespie, Judy Platts, and Helen Schneiders – will reflect on their experiences and vision for human flourishing, using metaphors of “garden” and “vineyard.”

February 29th, Putting down roots in God’s word rather tha our own plans, our work, our self-understanding – in a culture where many feel rootless. Text for the evening, Psalm 1. “Happy are those” … whose “delight is in the word of the Lord, and on his word they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water … their leaves do not wither.”

March 7th, Life-affirming joy. In a time when many feel anxious or even crushed; we celebrate the gifts of creation and the flourishing of people around us. Text for the evening, Jeremiah 31:10-14. God speaks to a people who have been through war, exile, separation from one another: “They shall come and sing aloud … radiant over the goodness of the LORD … their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.”

March 14th, Bearing fruit. It’s not just what we do for others; it’s how God makes our whole lives a blessing. Text for the evening, Galatians 5:16-26. Paul encourages the Christians in Galatia to “live by the Spirit,” bearing fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

March 21st, Connected to neighbors. We’re not just here for ourselves or even for the congregation; we’re here for the people in our neighborhood. Text for the evening, Revelation 21:22-22:5. John of Patmos sees a vision of the end of all things: a city with no temple (or church!) – just God. And it’s not a cold, urban world – a river flows right through the center, with a great tree of life providing fruit and leaves for the “healing of the nation.”

March 28th, Abiding in Christ – in his word, his love – for ‘apart for me, you can do nothing.” Text for the evening, John 15: Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing … Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love ..”

We hope you’ll join us!

Transformation or Flourishing?

Your life has been enriched. You’re “alive,” joyful. People experience patience, kindness, love in your presence. You are growing in your faith – which doesn’t mean, so much, that your faith itself grows – more that you grow because of who God is to you. “You shall be like a watered garden … whose waters never fail” (from Isaiah 58, heard on Ash Wednesday).

Have you seen people grow this way around St Luke? Has this been your experience? Maybe it’s too cheery an image for followers of Jesus, who said “take up your cross and follow.” (Mark 8) But in God, trial and loss give way to unimaginable life – not just for us, but for others: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (our ‘theme verse’ for Lent this year)

There are many ways churches can answer the question “what are we here for?” Providing the most excellent worship and music experiences? A warm, nurturing community? Working together to fight poverty in our neighborhood? All of which are important aspects of our mission, but what if NONE of these is the main thing for us? Why do we have the worship, music, community and service? (I’ve raised these questions before … do I sound like a broken record? Or for you young folks – a half downloaded mp3 set on repeat? .. But I believe that a shared sense of why we’re here is going to be key to our future.)

Some of the best writers / leaders on church mission right now will say “the main thing – what it’s all for – is human transformation.” Yes. The word “transformation” is certainly biblical (see Romans 12), and fits well what happens at Baptism: the seed falls; we die to our old self, and rise a new person – alive to God. I am less comfortable with how the word has been used in discussions about sexual orientation. “You can be transformed” can mean “you’re not OK or even really “you” as you are, until you become someone different.” To leave it at that (if I may get theological) is to ignore a central Christian conviction: that God created us as good from the womb (Psalm 139) and even more, redeems us, sets us free from what prevents our flourishing. You are a new person when you step forward from the waters of baptism – but it’s still you, and even more wonderfully you!

One thing I love about St Luke is the diversity of the people who come through our doors – in age, politics, experiences, faith background (of course, we could be even MORE diverse – especially with regard to race …). Do we welcome people so they can be “transformed?” (Into what – good Lutherans?) Of course, dramatic life changes can be good and neceessary! But we also welcome people in celebration of what they are, how the God who “so loved the world” has always already been at work in our lives and our neighbors’.

Back to the word I used above – flourishing. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10). What if that’s the main thing? I believe that’s what some of your leaders are pointing to when we bring up the metaphors of the garden and vine – already a part of the conversation during soup suppers this Lent. It’s also how Miroslav Volf talks about the main contribution churches can have in the public sphere – “our vision for human flourishing.”

The main thing for us is God, who creates us, redeems us, calls us, makes us flourish and grow into eternal life in defeat of death. We flourish when we are hungry and are fed, when we make connections with people who may not be like us, when we learn to sing, when God’s word becomes a part of our lives, and faith takes hold – each in our own way, depending on who we are, our life circumstances – having in common the grace and love that hold us, always. What more can we say about this flourishing? If it’s God who makes us grow, what part have we, can we play?

Vision and direction for the next few years at St Luke

Think back on the last few years, all that has happened: we crafted, debated and voted on a statement of welcome to people of “diverse racial and ethnic background, physical and emotional needs, sexual orientation and gender identity” that puts us on the roster of “Reconciled in Christ” congregations (thus the rainbow heart on our new signs) – and led in its way to our being willing to open our sanctuary to Grace Road Church. We began new ventures in spiritual growth, from Sanctuary for visitors, prayer and depression groups, to historical and now Womens’ Bible Studies. And we created Project Hope to help people effected by the economy, a thriving Loaves & Fishes ministry of hospitality to the homeless, and now concert fundraisers for the food pantry. Not to mention all the work on our buildings, communications and committee restructuring. And it hasn’t always been easy! Some of our planning didn’t seem to go anywhere; some of what we tried didn’t work. God shapes us even through our frustrations (see council article …)

We also crafted a mission statement: “we are a Christian community extending God’s love and compassion, welcoming all to share the joy of faith in Jesus Christ?” Much of our energy has been focused on different aspects of this mission. So what’s our vision for the next few years? As author Anthony Robinson puts it, “given our mission, what is God calling us to do in the near future? If mission is our ‘main thing’ then vision is our ‘next thing’.” How do we determine vision? God’s clear directives (see Matthew 28), our sense of the gifts God has awakened in this community, the situation we find ourselves in, and common sense certainly would all be factors.

The council and a “vision task force” have been exploring some ideas for vision and direction in the next few years. There will be some discussion time set for January, but we welcome your input at any time.

– First, what kind of community is St Luke becoming? One metaphor that we have found compelling (inspired?) is that of a garden or vineyard, as in Jeremiah 31:12 “their lives shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again” and John 15: “I am the vine, you are the branches, abide in my love.” We’re here to help one another grow and flourish in faith, love, joy and compassion.

"They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. " - Jeremiah 31:12

– Second, if we are about “flourishing,” what does that mean for our general approach to ministry in this time and place? We recognize that people are stretched and stressed: we want church to be a place of nurture, support, and joy – not just more demands. For many, the primary place of “service” won’t be church but work and home life.

– Sunday is the “Lord’s Day” and our primary time together, especially when people are busy. Does our worship, educational hour and fellowship time reflect our mission statement? In the near future, we are planning a comprehensive look at our sanctuary space, with regard to arrangement, maintenance needs, accessibility, beauty, etc… Attention to worship and education “experience” in general requires constant attention.

– With regard to “welcoming all” the conversation has gone in two directions. First, let’s continue learning to embrace neighbors not simply as “potential members” but as friends and conversation partners who also “flourish” among us. The recent concert series benefit for the food pantry has been one great way to ally with neighbors over a common cause. Second, those who do want to learn the faith increasingly come from little or no church background. Let’s think through and strengthen our congregational practice of welcoming people to the faith, through the “Sanctuary” process and other means.

– Finally, we want to build on current efforts at “sharing the joy of faith” and “extending God’s love and compassion.” Two examples might be “Loaves & Fishes” ministry and Women’s Bible Studies – can we continue to improve how we do these things? Involve children in coloring bags to serve meals in? Supplement regular studies with biblical literacy “basics” courses?