Here is the Church. There goes the Church.

Here is the Church. There goes the Church.

By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, April 28, 2016

Do you remember how to do this?

First, you say, “Here is the church.” (fold your hands with fingers inside) Then you show off the steeple. “Here is the steeple.” (put index fingers up to form the steeple of the church) Now, “Open the doors.” (move your thumbs apart to see inside the church) Now for the grand finale, “And see all the people.” (show fingers inside, moving around) 

I have always loved that little game. Trying to teach it to my four-year- old has been fun. Usually, it ends with a knot of knuckles and a chuckle or two about the people on the inside of the church made by our hands. There is truth in that. When you perform that simple gesture you get it. The church is comprised of the people that gather there in that place in Jesus’ name. It is a simple reminder, a beautiful thing. Yet, there are limits to that lesson.

We know that the church is more than the building and the steeple, more even than the people who gather in that place. It is the end of that lyric that gnaws at me a bit. Open the doors and there are the people, we say. Is that what we are asking of our neighbors?

Certainly, the life of the church should extend beyond the boundaries of Briarcliff. Consider for a moment those people on the other side of the door or on the other side of town. Do we expect people to come to us? Are we asking the community to take the proactive stance of finding us, of opening our doors in order to discover our life, our ministries, and our work? Aren’t we called to go, called to be a part of the life of our community? Maybe our congregation needs to leave the building in order to open our lives to the lives of those around us. That means we need to leave the building with the intention of being present in the many places where people are making meaning and creating community in Macon.

Lutheran pastor, Keith Anderson notes ministry is moving—and must move—from behind the closed doors of our church buildings into local and digital gathering places where people already gather, make meaning, and live out their faith in daily life. This shift takes us into the everyday sacred places of our community, instead of asking our community to come to our sacred space. Anderson sees these communal opportunities in pubs, coffee shops, commuter train stations, bus stops, college campus sidewalks, local vet’s offices, food trucks, laundromats, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other digital locales.

Being present with intention is the ongoing life of our community, this is the calling of a congregation to its larger parish. Such a shift in locale presents the church with an opportunity to leave the building and to remember that the church is located wherever two or three gather in Christ’s name. So, I ask you, “Where will your ministry at Highland Hills take you?”

Spiritual Peers

Spiritual Peers

By Ruth DuCharme

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, April 21, 2016

Once a month, I gather with five other ministers at Vineville Methodist Church for the single purpose of encouragement. We call our gathering a Spiritual Peer Group, and we are bound together because we are each busy, middle-aged ministers who find contemplative prayer meaningful, silence rewarding, and companionship necessary.

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, April 14, 2016

It’s that time of year, a time to prune the hedges and trim the trees, a time to de-clutter the closets and to empty the junk drawer of all of the accumulated… well, junk. If your house is like mine, then it is time for spring cleaning. As you take inventory of your household, how do you decide what goes and what stays? The difference between trash and treasure can be difficult to determine. What questions do you ask to determine if an item is a family heirloom or a goodwill gift?

Gone Fishin'

Gone Fishin'

By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, April 7, 2016

I have seen those signs for years in gifts shops or the lobby at Cracker Barrel. They are fun, decorative and kitschy, expressing some variation of "I'd rather be fishing." Until recently, every time I saw those signs I thought, “Not me.”

My One Day Spring Break

My One Day Spring Break

By Carol Brown

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, March 31, 2016

Just one day… that’s all I got this year. In years past, I sometimes took four or five days for a Spring Break trip with my family, but this year my Spring Break was just one day. Easter Monday was a day of rest for the staff of Highland Hills, following a full schedule of Holy Week services, and that one day was my Spring Break. Just one day… not enough time to go to the beach, not enough time to escape to the mountains, and not enough time to visit family in SC.

Until My Trophies at Last I Lay Down

Until My Trophies at Last I Lay Down

By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, March 24, 2016

George Bennard wrote, “The Old Rugged Cross” around 1912. Bennard preached throughout the Midwest as a traveling evangelist. One evening he left the service upset because of the behavior of the crowd. During that revival service, some youth taunted Bennard during the sermon. Their indifference to the good news, as Bennard proclaimed it, led to his reflection upon the meaning of Christ of Christ.

A Poet's Parable of the Donkey

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A Poet's Parable of the Donkey

By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, March 17, 2016

Before the familiar parade of Palm fronds and hosannas, there was the procurement of a trusted stead. On Sunday, we reflect on Palm Sunday and Jesus' ride on the donkey through the gate at Jerusalem. In preparation for the day, consider this parable from the poet Mary Oliver, "The Poet Thinks about the Donkey."

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1+1= More than Two

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1+1= More than Two

By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, March 10, 2016

Sometimes the sum total of an experience equals more than the sum of its parts. Consider our numbers from this weekend’s church-wide mission project, Hand in Hand.

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