Posted tagged ‘Ecumenical’

Caroling With the Methodists

December 19, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 19, 2016

     Cautiously they came up the seven steps into the sanctuary. There were nine of them, four adults and five bouncing kids. They hadn’t gotten two steps into the sanctuary before two of the Baptist women descended upon them with greetings and smiles. Today the Methodists were joining us! More specifically, the Methodist children’s bell choir was going to play for our service. First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church were situated just a block apart from one another in the hamlet of Simla, but worlds apart from ever joining together in some kind of activity. Today would change that.

The cold and snow kept a few of the faithful away. Henry and Mildred, our two ninety year olds, wisely stayed away. John was down in his back. A different John was on snow plow duty with the County. So nine United Methodists joined thirteen American Baptists for a time of worship, celebration, and laughter. The five-child bell choir, all related to one another, delighted us. After they finished their two songs they passed out candy canes to everyone…and then I passed out the candy canes I had brought for them!

Two small churches figuring out each other! At the end of worship the crock pots with chili were plugged in and most of us trudged down the snow-packed street two blocks to the full-care senior facility to sing for the elderly residents and, once again, to have the bell choir play. The two churches had collected pairs of socks that the children passed out to the residents, socks with brightly colored stripes and designs to bring a bit of color to the lives of some folks whose days were mostly gray and hopeless.

Two small churches walking together, becoming familiar with one another in a community we were all familiar with. Two small churches figuring out how we could join together to make a difference.

Back to the Baptist church we walked to enjoy chili and cinnamon rolls together. We gathered at the front of the sanctuary, joined hands in a circle of prayer, and asked God’s blessing on the meal and thanked him for the day we had enjoyed. Guests went first, savoring the aromas as they passed by the pots. One of the girls gave the ultimate compliment. She said, “This place smells just like Taco Bell!”

We sat together and enjoyed conversation about school, life, and farming. A story I had shared in my morning message resonated with one of the Methodists. He had been the high school basketball coach for 35 years and my story had focused on a basketball official that we both knew. Connecting points brought us closer together in our conversation.

At the end of the day everyone knew that what had happened that morning and afternoon had been a good thing.

Two small churches a block away, but no longer worlds apart.

Trading Pulpits

January 24, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           January 24, 2013

 

Last Sunday was the seventh year in a row that the pastors of the five neighborhood churches in our area traded pulpits. A Mennonite can become a Lutheran, a Presbyterian can experience being a Baptist, and a Methodist can be anyone of the aforementioned. We change preaching venues on a Sunday in mid-January to early February…and go at it.

The congregations love it. In fact, most of the members of each congregation look forward to it. When the Lutheran pastor came to our church a few years ago and delivered an eight minute message I had people the next Sunday asking when he could come back. I enjoy speaking in different churches because there are plenty of jokes I can tell about being a Baptist pastor. I’ve got a lot of bizarre stories as well, because “truth is stranger than fiction.” Being a Baptist pastor for almost 34 years now I can attest to the truth of that statement.

The value of trading pulpits for one is that as pastors, we visibly display our belief in, and commitment to, a church that has many shapes, sizes, emphases, colors, and looks, but one Lord, one Savior, and one Spirit.

The other value is a growing sense that other churches aren’t the enemy. Or even the competition. Just as I say that it takes the church and the school to partner together in creating a healthy community, I also believe that it takes our churches linking together in proclamation and ministry to be light in the midst of darkness.

There are many things that Dan Holt, Senior Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, and I can spend our time disagreeing on, but what we are united about is that Christ means Hope and Life and Truth. Of our eight pastors serving in the five congregations I am probably the most conservative theologically, but we don’t belabor our differences. We respect and value each other. To often value gets attributed only to people who resemble us.

Last Sunday I spoke in the Methodist church. I told them early on that the good news was that if I screwed anything up not to worry, Pastor Larry would be back next week. I had a good time delivering the word of the Lord. I’m almost afraid to say this, but they were perhaps even a little more receptive to what I was saying than my own congregation, because I was a new voice to them. Sometimes the familiar voice is respected and honored, but not necessarily heard with as much attention.

When our neighborhood pastors meet again the first Wednesday in February we will talk about how it went. There will be a heightened sense of connectedness with one another because we trusted each other, and our congregations trusted us to provide someone who would be faithful in bringing the Word of the Lord to them.

It was good!