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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

Visions for 2018

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” -Matthew 25:31-32
This scripture comes to us from Matthew’s gospel about the judgement of the nations. It is well worn scripture for those who feel called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned. The extended scripture from Matthew 25:31-46 is a direct passage about how to follow Jesus. With this vision, it is impossible to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ without caring for others. It is impossible to be a Christian without offering compassion and mercy to other people. Matthew 25 is compelling and at the beginning of the year offers guidance for any ‘resolutions’ you might be making.
Making resolutions is a tired practice, but for people of faith, this is a great time to reignite your spiritual practices. What ways do you want to live your faith this year? Are you ready to add daily prayer to your life? Would you like a daily scripture reading or devotional activity? Do you feel called to connect to a hospital, prison or provide clothes or welcome to a stranger? There are more scriptures of more suggestions for faith resolutions that might be more suited to you.
Galatians 5:22-26 name the fruits of the Spirit. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Do any of these have a pull on your heart? Do you need to develop kindness toward others as a practice and speak less negativity and more positive encouragement to others? Is there are lack of peace or patience in your heart? With the pain of the world, sometimes our hearts falter and struggle with the fruits of the Spirit. Just like adding physical exercise at the beginning of the year, adding exercises for our Spirit is a faithful goal.
It has been a long painful year for many people. I’m getting lots of calls for prayer and hearing from people who are fearful and anxious. As the page of the calendar turns, take time to consider the blessings in your life. And perhaps consider what are you anticipating for 2018? Make a resolution to grow closer to God and live the life you are called to.
My prayers are with you on your journey! Much love and peace to you in 2018!
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw


Here we are… the end of 2017.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for God is good! For God’s mercy endures forever. –1 Chronicles 16:34
Here we are… the end of 2017. December is here. Advent is here. The paperwork of the end of the year is here. The decorations and gift-giving suggestions are out in the stores. Someone started humming Christmas music as I was walking through a store a few days ago. The calendar of the church is packed to overflowing and I’m already so tired. Maybe you are too. I want to offer you some encouragement.
The scriptures tell us that during the time Jesus was in Mary’s womb, there were a cluster of angel sightings. An angel talked to Zechariah. An angel talked to Joseph. An angel spoke to Mary. An angel spoke to a Shepherd. God’s messengers spoke to the people involved with encouragement and assurance. Jesus’ birth was surrounded by declarations of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love by special Angels!
The story of Jesus’ birth is the story of God responding to the darkness, hate and injustice of the world. Jesus is God’s intervention into human sinfulness. The government and the religious leadership were failing the majority of the community. Jesus’ teaching and work was on behalf of the underserved, forgotten and marginalized. Jesus came to us, to be an instrument of healing and restoration to a broken world.
God is full of surprises! From scary angels who bring messages from God to a baby born in a manger, God comes in unexpected ways and places. Our God always makes a way to come to us! Why would now be any different? Why would our world be exempt from God’s surprising ways?
Even as racism, sexism, gun violence and extreme hate are powerful forces in our living, God is even more powerful! If you are troubled by the news of the day, just wait, God will show up! God always does!
Take time to rest before Advent begins. Take time to remember God’s surprising ways! Take time to breathe and remember the people you love! Take time to give thanks… for whatever has been a blessing to you this year! It’s almost over…
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw


Long Range Plan

‘Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.’ Ephesians 4:29
We are beginning work with a Church Consultant for the purpose of developing a long range plan. It has been 13 years since this building was completed. At that time there were plans to build another section of this building with classrooms and a kitchen. The plan was to develop a weekday preschool downstairs. Those plans have never been realized but have continued to be a part of the church’s conversation about our future.
Our Church Council approved hiring the Church Consultant upon recommendation of a small group called the ‘Building Inspiration Team’ who met three times in August and September. The goal of hiring the Church Consultant is to develop a long range plan and answer the question of whether we need, want and have the capacity to finish the building. Rev. Mary Scrifers is an experienced church consultant and coach. She will be coming to meetings, running retreats and leading conversations to reflect the core values and passion of this congregation.
Entering into a time of long range planning for the discernment of our future ministry can bring out grief, anger, fear, anxiety, resentment and suspicion as well as hope, excitement, joy and renewed enthusiasm for our future. I’ve already heard every one of these from you. From the choir room to the narthex and out in the parking lot there is talk that goes on.
Paul writes to the people of Ephesus about how to be a church, and to live in community. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-3, ‘as a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’ As we enter into this focused time of discernment, I encourage you to take Paul’s words to heart. Be patient with one another as you speak about our future, and the future of this church for people who aren’t even born yet.
A long range plan should project out three to five to ten years. That means we will be planning for 2020 to 2022 and into 2027. I wonder who will be here and what will be the age of our congregation then? Will we have an active group of 30-somethings who are singing with the band and connected with our community partners? Who are we called to reach out to in 2027 that we don’t even know today? The work we do now, is for our children and grandchildren and other people’s children and grandchildren.
How do we stay current with everything, even as we seek to follow Jesus? The truth is if we are looking into the future, some things will change. Even when the way we do ministry changes and the people we see week to week change, the Savior we follow stays the same. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So let us take heart and be patient and kind to one another as we look into the future and for new ways to offer Christ love to our neighbors.
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Dr. Shaw