In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young will see visions.
Your elders will dream dreams.
Joel 2.28 and Acts 2.17 CEB
What we are all really asking…
is how do we, who know the world needs to change,
begin to practice being different?
From Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
by adrienne maree brown[i]
As I prepare to retire from parish ministry, I am asking questions of the future. My future, yes, but even more urgently the church’s future. The Christian church at large and Plymouth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in particular. There is a great and subtle sea change, my friends, in the life of this human institution we call church. A sea change, a profound and notable transformation. Perhaps, before the pandemic, it was subtle, and we were not noticing it. However, now it is palpable. Especially to those of us who have dedicated our lives and careers to the care and feeding of “church.” This is not a bad thing! This is the movement of God’s Holy Spirit as the kin-dom of God, God’s realm on earth as it is in heaven, is expanded and further revealed for the transformation of creation!
It is change….and change brings trepidation, even fear. We cannot continue to do things as we have always done them, yet we cling to how we have always done things because the new way seems unsure and unclear. The new way is only revealing itself one step at a time. This is why I love the scripture text that opens this reflection. From the time of the ancient Hebrew prophets to beginnings of the early church to now in the 21st century, God wants us to dream with God of new possibilities for creation, for human beings, for this institution we call church. Possibilities that bring love where there is hate, justice where there is injustice, compassion where there is intolerance, joy where there is despair. And we do not have to muster up these dreams and visions and prophesies out of our own minds and hearts alone. They will be given to us by the Spirit as we pray and work and fellowship and worship together.
What are some of effects of this spiritual sea change that I am seeing that make us uncomfortable?
Finally, be aware of the new dreams and visions taking shape by welcoming the new faces you see in worship, at programming and in coffee hour. As pastors, we cannot welcome everyone on our own. Look around and reach out! And let one of the pastors know if you would like to be more integrally involved a team that welcomes and helps integrate new friends into our community.
If you are new, we hope you will reach out to staff and lay leaders (deacons, book group leaders, fellowship group leaders, someone at coffee hour) and ask your questions! We are eager to get to know you and help you to get to know us!
My friends, God is giving us new dreams and visions as we seek to be the loving presence of Jesus, the Christ, in the world! As we follow the ways of Jesus, may we always be open to holy possibilities!
With you on the journey,
[i] adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, (AK Press, Chico, CA: 2017, 164).