I’ve just returned from visiting two of our elders, one at PVH and another at a rehab facility. It feels wonderful to bring love and light from our congregation into the rooms of people struggling with illness and injury. God’s love is often transmitted by people helping to reflect a little glimmer of divine light into places that some find shadowy. Many of those people, lay and ordained, gather at Plymouth.
There has been a lot in the news lately about the rapid post-pandemic decline of the church and synagogue and the ever-increasing number of “nones,” who have no particular faith, but many of whom believe in God, a higher power, or a force in the universe greater than any of us. But they are scared of church in part because of the way American mainstream media often portrays us is that we are pedophiles, homophobes, hypocrites, anti-intellectual, and very judgmental. (Clearly NOT what we see at Plymouth.)
Ironically, we also read a lot about the epidemic proportions of loneliness, especially among elders. Has anyone ever suggested joining a church? One that welcomes and honors the beliefs and perspectives of its members? I see Plymouth volunteers provide a warm, home-cooked meal with a program each month for our seniors. It’s awesome.
I also read a lot that people today hunger for community. Churches like ours are about the only place to find intergenerational community in our country today. Community is not unlike a marriage: they both take work. None of us should expect to have ready-made community served to us on a silver platter with no effort. Community takes work and commitment.
So, who needs church? Lots of people. Folks who want to find ways to connect with the Holy, who sense a call to put faith into action. People who don’t want to feel isolated. Young adults who want to have fill-in grandparents that their children adore. People who have found that consumerism and self-centeredness are morally vacant. And folks who have discovered that being part of a church community is really rewarding (and sometimes really fun)!
Church is not a commodity. It is not bought, traded, or sold. It is possible to come to Plymouth and slip out the door without anyone noticing. It is possible be a member of Plymouth for years without serving on a board or council. It is possible to let the offering plate pass you by and decide not to pledge. Here’s the rub: You are not going to have a fulfilling experience if that is the approach you take. That isn’t how communities are built and thrive. Each of us must shine!
We are all in this together. It isn’t my church or Marta’s. It isn’t the UCC’s church. It’s God’s church entrusted to us to love and nurture. We are stewards of a fantastic church, and we should not take it for granted. How are you shining the light of God’s love? If we all share a little glimmer, we can vanquish some of the shadows that fall over the world.
I hope you will join me this Sunday — Consecration Sunday — at Plymouth as we dedicate our pledge commitments for 2024 and ask God to bless them and our congregation. You can pledge online anytime at plymouthucc.org/pledge or you can bring your pledge card this Sunday.
The Stewardship Board is providing breakfast at 10:00, so if you typically attend the 11:00 service, I encourage you to come an hour early and enjoy great food and fellowship. And if you have pledged (or even if you plan to pledge at 11:00), you will be entered in our raffle, and the winning tickets will be drawn at 10:45. (Prizes include a week in Steamboat Springs, a beer tasting for you and five friends, $100 to spend at Simmer, a great nearby restaurant, tickets to see Jesus Christ Superstar.) See you there!
In the spirit of God’s abundance,
This may surprise you, but I LOVE CHURCH. I love Sundays when we gather as a community to read liturgy, pray, sing familiar songs, connect with each other and learn in our educational programs. As churches around the country close their doors and open up Facebook Live, YouTube, and Zoom to for their worship services, there is a lot of chatter that the church is not a building. And, there is a lot of talk that society will forever be changed by having experienced COVID-19, including the institution of the church. Being adaptable is key and that also brings with it challenges.
Your church is finding new ways to worship, connect and care for you. We have increased our online presence, we are reaching out more by phone and mail, and we have increased our care by providing supplies and financial assistance and so much more. Please let us know if you need anything.
So while the church is not the building, we have enjoyed reaching beyond our walls and our physical boundaries and hearing from folks afar. Yet, I know all of the staff at Plymouth looks forward to us all being together in the building again AND with those online. It’s too early to tell how this pandemic will impact the institution of the church, but I know the Plymouth will adapt to effective ways to be the living faith.
Holy Week is upon us and Maundy Thursday is my favorite worship service of the entire church calendar. I even love Good Friday when there is darkness because we move to silence on Saturday, then finally the celebration of ‘He Is Risen’ on Easter Sunday. I wonder if we are ready for Easter. The pandemic news is dire for some and uncertainty surrounds us. I know I am ready for the Easter message that moves us from death to resurrection to new life.
I wonder what it is like for you to worship via Facebook Live? Let us know.
In December, Carla started her two-year designated term pastorate at Plymouth. She spent the last 5 years consulting with churches on strategic planning, conflict transformation and visioning. Before going to seminary she volunteered at her church through Stephen Ministry, visiting ministries and leading worship services at a memory care unit and a healthcare facility. She served on the Board of Directors for the Iowa conference of the United Church of Christ.