State of SFC Report

We are about 18 months in to this experiment so it’s time to share some data with you all.  I know that our story is not about the numbers, that stats don’t capture changed hearts and transformed lives, however numbers are an indicator of life in a community, so let me share a little slice of our life with you. In the last six months we have had 55 unique individuals participate in SFC events.  These are participants in official SFC programs, and don’t include the people that our community engages with informally.  For example I did a funeral this fall and have engaged in pastoral care for persons not included in that count of 55.  While there is more ministry happening, that 55 is more of an attendance number, which correlates to the questions on the conference report that each church must fill out.  Our total count for participants has grown in each 6 month period of our ministry from 21 to 41 and now to 55. Our average attendance from last quarter (July-Sept) was 19.5 people a week.  This sounds awesome until I remind you that I’m counting the 3 Lowerys at least twice each week.  Why is that?  Well if this was a regular church we’d get credited as attending both worship services, so here we get counted at both Thursday and Sunday dinners.  That means our average participation without our family was more like 13.5 people each week.  This isn’t just dinner though, but factors in our monthly events too, which means there is some more potential double counting if people came to more than...

Love

The last of the four traditional values of advent is love.  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are the ways we look for God breaking into our world again and again during the season of advent, which is the four weeks before Christmas. Love is the simplest thing in the world and the most complex.  We have all sorts of classifications of love such as romantic love, a parent’s love for a child, love of our fiends, love of a good wine, love of a place or a time or an experience, love of things.  Love is all around us and yet it’s hard to always be loving or to feel loved. Love of neighbor is the core of our faith community here at Sellwood.  We want to make a difference in the world and we do so by loving the people around us.  It’s not always easy.  We have some very difficult people that we interact with and we as a community are helping each other to extend love to those grumpy, complaining, angry folks.  You see it’s easy to love nice people and it’s easy to love the people who are like us.  Our community comes together at our dinners to grow in our spirits so that we can love more fully everyone we engage with in our lives.  Each of us brings that love in a different way, and each circumstance requires a unique way of being present. One thing we have learned as a community is that being nice and loving someone are not the same thing.  Tough love is so named because setting boundaries, taking...

Joy

This past week I was working on the worship order for Sunday on the same day the torture report came out.  If you haven’t heard this is the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the use of torture by the CIA after 9/11.  We as a nation did terrible things, at least one of which resulted in the death of a man who we detained by mistake.   This is, of itself, unspeakably awful, but the real kicker is that the report concludes that none of these “extreme interrogation tactics” actually worked in getting good intelligence and making things safer from terrorists. Did I mention that the theme for Sunday was joy?  How on earth do we talk about joy when this is going on?  Not to mention the anger still resounding in many after the grand jury decisions in Ferguson & Staten Island.  I’ll admit I spent time feeling completely overwhelmed and lost.  I cannot undo what has been done.  I cannot shape national policy.  I cannot change our legal system or call people accountable because of my experiences of racism.  I am not one to sit for very long in the things I cannot do or be.  So on that next day I decided to bring as much joy into the world as I could. I bought a gift card for a guy who is struggling without a coat in cold weather.  I made a purchase from a local artist who needs some extra funds this season.  I wrote a note to a friend who is such a great mom, and needs some encouragement during a difficult developmental...

Peace

Advent is the time in the church year where we prepare ourselves to see God present in the world.  The traditional themes of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, so that is what I am writing about this season. Peace is the concept we focus on for the second week of advent.   Often I picture peace as found on a nice Caribbean beach.  The gentle waves and the warm sun evoke calm.  There is a happiness here, a contentment that has always been part of what I have thought of when I thought about peace.  It is the absence of conflict and stress. Our language however shows another side of peace, such as when we say things like she was at peace with her decision.  This to me captures a different emotion than that sunny beach scene.  It connotes some wrestling with the issue.  In this instance work was done in order to find peace.  I know that an acceptance of things as they are brings peace.  I’ve found this in my own struggles with my weight.  While I continue to strive to be healthier I’ve made peace with my current size.  The freedom I have found in not beating myself up all the time is part of being healthier mentally and it surely is a form of peace. Finally the latest space where I am growing in my understanding of peace is one that often feels the opposite of the contented peace of the beach and is a furthering of that accepting peace I’m beginning to live out. Last year at this time I had just...

Hope

The season of Advent began on Sunday.  This is a time in the church year when we train ourselves to look for the times that God breaks in to the world.  Of course we remember back to the first Christmas when God came as a vulnerable baby.  This is one of the tangible moments where God came to us in Christ.  Some people use Advent to focus on what is called the Second Coming.  This is the time foretold in the book of Revelation in the bible.  The idea is that one day Christ will return and God will restore heaven and earth to be perfect. While these capture the sense of Advent as a time of preparing for God’s presence I think the most important part of Advent is training ourselves to see the small ways God breaks into the world every day.  Over the 4 Sundays of Advent we focus on Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Hope is a yearning for something, a trust in the possible.  I find hope in the act of prayer.  Even when I am at my most desperate and lost, just praying is a signal that I hope in God and in goodness. Hope is found in the very act of planting a new church.  We have a yearning for something else, a trust that a new way of being church is possible here in this place. Hope caused many to share the image of a young boy hugging a police officer in the days after the Ferguson verdict. How have you experienced hope?  When have you found a confidence in something...