Posted tagged ‘Quaker Ridge’

Contemporary Simla

August 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         August 17, 2017

                                

Bill Hale, my co-conspirator….err, partner in ministry, bought me lunch yesterday and then told me about his previous Sunday’s experience at First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado. Bill, another great guy named Ed Stucky, and I have been filling the pulpit at the Simla church for the past year and a half.

Now, a couple of things about Bill! He is a retired school teacher who happens to be nine days younger than me, loves country music, and has a keen wit. He and his wife Sylvia have directed our regional denomination’s camp week at Quaker Ridge (Even though we’re American Baptists!) Camp for the past several years. The past two summers I’ve come alongside them, kind of like Larry came alongside Moe and Curly! On the last night of camp this past July Bill dressed up as the Tooth Fairy. I have pictures!

Simla First Baptist is a small congregation of 25…maybe! That’s if everyone, plus their pets, come to church! They have done the best they can, not having the financial resources to pay a pastor or make many improvements. One of the things they haven’t had is an organist, pianist, or even guitar player. So they make do with what we simply call “a music machine.” The music machine plays the background organ music for whatever hymn the congregation is struggling to sing. More times than not it plays the wrong music, or plays the music too slow or softly. Every hymn we sing is a potential Saturday Night Live skit. When you don’t have what you’ve never had you don’t know any difference!

Rev. Hale (as of his ordination service this past May 7) is a bit bolder than me. (We have coffee at Starbucks, but he brings his McDonald’s Diet Coke cup! Radical!) Last Sunday he brought a projector, a laptop, and a screen to Simla. The last projector Simla First Baptist had was the type that you connect a reel of film to and thread it through to connect to the back reel. He set up the screen and the projector and his laptop and, using DVD’s, had the congregation sing praise songs with music and words. For the Sunday message he used a power point to illustrate his sermon, plus a video clip! It was like a tsunami washed over the congregation…and they loved it!

This Sunday I’ll be joining Bill and Sylvia in Simla. They’ve got me doing the children’s story! He’s bringing the projector and screen again and we’ll see if they can bear two Sundays in a row of “the new stuff.”

The Simla church is like many small town churches (SImla’s population has shrunk down to around 500). The possibility of closure is greater than the hope of continuing. They remember in days and decades gone by when the sanctuary was close to capacity. Those days have long since disappeared, and yet in recent months this small congregation has done some amazing things. They paid for and sent four kids to the Quaker Ridge camp week, and  gave a gift of almost $2,000 to help a young couple raise the needed financial support they needed to begin their new venture as missionaries in Chiapas, Mexico. the church also committed to supporting the young family of four with a monthly financial gift. Those have all been great things, but…the music machine needed to have a “come to Jesus moment!” In other words, go on to the sweet by and by!

Bill Hale said something at lunch yesterday that resonated with me. He said, “They deserve better!” Churches like Simla have often been content to settle for less. They’ve settled for less for so long they may not even realize they deserve better.

Don’t get me wrong! Bringing a projector, a laptop, and a screen are not going to transform this little church. I think they’re already in the midst of transformation, ever so slowly, but still they are changing.

I’ve told them several times that they have allowed me to fall in love with the church again…even though on most Sundays we wouldn’t need a whole pot of chili to feed the entire congregation. But you don’t need a huge number of people to love the church. You simply need a group of people who are committed to one another for the journey. The Saints of Simla, as I call them, are great people…who deserve more!

Now it’s getting them to believe it! All things are possible with God! He can even use a 63 year old man who likes to dress up as the Tooth Fairy!

Camp Building

July 22, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     July 21, 2013

 

 

     Yesterday about a dozen of our kids, young people, and three adults came back from a week at church camp. In worship today there were several testimonies from the campers about their experience. There was a heightened level of energy and excitement in worship. The energy may have been fueled by the sharing of how camp had impacted lives, or it was the result of lives that had been impacted…or perhaps it was because the Spirit seemed close and moving in our midst…or all three.

This was the first year in the last five that I didn’t go to be camp pastor at the middle school camp, but I have always felt that the church- not just mine- doesn’t do enough in building upon the spiritual excitement of camp in the weeks that kids come back home. Perhaps that’s because the campers are away…an hour away. Sometimes we miss the momentum because it didn’t occur in the church building or the community. On the other side, kids come back from camp on spiritual highs, emotionally charged and wondering what is the next thing to take place. They encounter parents who have gone to work each day during the past week as usual, people who have gone about their routines and responsibilities.

Sometimes the first few days after camp are disappointing for those returning home. That’s why camp is such a great experience! It’s twenty-four hours a day of relationship-building, making new friends, campfires, and getting messy with shaving cream and Cheetos. The campers have been taken out of their usual surroundings and, in essence, they start building a new home with a new family of their peers under the watchful eye of their counselor. My guess is that almost all of the students who were at the middle school and high school camps last week have already been on Facebook with most of their camp friends, sharing pictures, “I miss you” comments, and counting down the number of days until camp next summer.

The church would do well to build on what many of the campers now see as the greatest week of their lives. The church would do well to challenge them at this point in their faith and commitment. If that happens it will help young people looking for a purpose to find purpose. If it doesn’t…if that building on camp doesn’t happen…they will continue to count down the days until next summer, and about 360 days will be lost in their growing season.