Yawn. A bunch of churches getting together in a local park to worship together. Who cares! It sure doesn't look like anything is really happening. And yet...
On Sunday five neighborhood churches worshipped together in Hamilton Park for the first time. It could become an annual event. We prayed together, we sang, we took communion together, we shared ways of increased collaboration together, and we feasted together. It was good. It was fun. And it was strategic.
We had Roger Reece, Executive Director of Associated Churches preach - and it was good to introduce him to our congregations. Most of us are members of the organization, and in one way or another are involved in serving our neighborhood. But it's important that we think about how we can care for our neighbors together. And it's the togetherness aspect that I think was strengthened on Sunday.
Churches have become very irrelevant and obsolete in their neighborhoods. Sure, they still find a way to contribute to the needs of the community, but ask a neighbor how they've benefited from the local church. The answer will reveal the disconnect.
Anchor has worked hard to be relevant to our neighbors - but we don't want to continue to do that work alone. We want to learn from our other neighborhood churches from the ways they've become helpful. From the collaboration comes more helpful churches, a unity of spirit that adds strength to our good work, and new opportunities for the Spirit to accomplish the impossible in us and through us.
There were about 165 of us gathered together in front of the brown cinder-block pavilion at Hamilton Park. It was inspiring to hear the voices singing together, to see heads bowed in prayer, to join the long line for Communion. We were planting seeds. Now our vision is to grow our churches and invite our neighbors so that we fill the park, we want people sitting on the far back hill! Wouldn't that be a great testimony to the help we have given in the name of Jesus to our neighbors?
More than anything, our churches want the Gospel of Jesus to be good news for our neighbors. We want our churches to be harbingers of that announcement. We want the kingdom to come where we live. This means, though, that we have to get involved in the lives and issues of our neighborhood. All the divorced families. All the kids without a father at home. Homes where the man is in prison. Families that are caught up in the court-system. Families that are dependent on the welfare system. Parents that don't know how to make it work together. People on disability, who are depressed, who are angry. People struggling to start over again, to get an education, to get a better job, to be a better parent.
There are also great families in our neighborhood, homes that are good and stable and shine a lot of light. And our neighborhood needs our churches to do their best in making disciples who are the hands and feet of Jesus where they live. Disciples who use their resources, their connections at work, their influence, their skills, their wallets, their prayers, their kitchen tables, their community assets, their political involvement, their local schools, to help make our neighborhood a better place to live. Disciples who jump into a project that will outlive them, a task that is bigger then all of us, a work that requires more than we can ask or imagine. Disciples who work together, in the wisdom and grace and diligence and creativity and truth and perseverance of Jesus.
For me, the quotes below capture these ideas. They inspire me. May they provoke you as well.
Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him.
The only way you can serve God is by serving other people.
There are two kinds of people one can call reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him, and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him.
The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Click here for more information about the neighborhood churches involved.