FROM THE PASTOR’ S DESK….WINTER 2022
At this time of year, from storefronts to home decorations, the world feels painted in pastels: bright colors, hearts and shamrocks. This is the season when Love is in the air.
In actuality, it is a great theme for the darkness of winter. Love is associated with warmth; with caring; with joy. It stands in direct contrast to the cold and drab colors of winter.
In the Scriptures, love is described in many ways. There is love described in the original Greek as “philo” love. This is brotherly/sisterly love—a love that is caring toward the common journey we share in this world. There is also “eros” love. This is love based in attraction and desire; a love blessed by God for the joy of companionship and the creation of life. Finally, there is “agape” love. This love is unconditional love—love shared between God and God’s people; love shared in Christian community—a love where everyone has a place and is welcome.
Prior to COVID, St. Stephen’s UCC was engaged in specifically challenging ourselves to grow in hospitality in ways that would mirror the agape love modeled by Christ. Now as we look with optimism toward a transition from pandemic life, the blessing of hospitality becomes even more important than it had been then. Churches across the board are feeling change in the air as attendance has declined, participation has waned and the ways of being church have shifted.
Now, the church of the present and future is becoming more of a “missional” church. A missional church sees itself as an entity seeking to reach out and connect with others through the love of the Gospel and the grace of God. It breaks down walls and opens doors. In many ways it sets aside the boundaries and even burdens of traditions and structures and redefines itself as a fluid entity filling the spaces of need and community in the neighborhood around it.
To do this, the church becomes a celebratory space of agape love.
As winter turns to spring and the world turns to color; so is the passage of time and the tide of change in the church. This time is the mark of new beginnings; new connections; and permeable church walls. This latter function happens by inviting others in; by piercing the invisible wall taking the church into the homes of others through technology; by growing a social media and internet presence.
What is Christ calling us to do in the community around us?
Winter in Christ’s church isn’t a drab cold place. It is a pastel colored vibrant community with people from all walks of life gathering together in person and online to worship and give God praise; to grow in our understandings of faith; and to reach out affect the lives of others.
May God guide us as we discern, dream and grow in God’s providence.