New Wine in Old Wineskins

Recently I was at an event and the first things out of a colleague’s mouth were, “Merging new things with old never works.”  Those of you who know me well can guess at some of the thoughts that raced through my head.  I went with the diplomatic response of making a joke about how the bible agrees with him in the saying about putting new wine in old wineskins, but that I always liked to test out conventional sayings. I am someone who wants to be liked and well thought of, so it can be hard when people make comments about their certainty of our failure.  I do appreciate the wisdom of other clergy and the ways that we have constantly been inspired and challenged by our community to become more than we are right now.  Without honest feedback from folks every step of the way through this process we never would have come this far. If I had been really up on my biblical scholarship that day and in more of a preaching mood I would have unpacked that parable I referenced from Luke 5:36-39.  Here it is from The Message version of the Bible:    “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put wine in old, cracked bottles; you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.   The thing is that Sellwood Faith Community and Trinity UMC do go together.  They are not the same fabric.  It’s like adding a...
Finding the Sacred

Finding the Sacred

When we gather each week something holy happens around the table sharing a meal and discussing scripture.  I feel God’s transcendent presence so vibrantly during our singing time each week. These experiences aren’t the fullness of spiritual experience.  We find God in our midst on the Worship Walks as we pause and pray in nature.  We are challenged in our beliefs at Spiritually Thirsty in ways that make our spirits grow.  There is a holiness to our work as we bag potatoes or cook a meal for our hungry neighbors.  And God dwells among us in the quiet and reflection of our monthly Taize worship experience. This year a new member of SFC is leading Taize at her home, so for the first time this month I got to go and just be in the worship space.  The altar tables were beautifully yet simply prepared with cloths, crosses, and candles.  The songs and scriptures had been thoughtfully chosen.  For 45 minutes I surrendered everything to just be in the moment.  It was a powerful time of rest and spiritual restoration.  I sat in the silence, I prayed holding a roughly finished clay cross from Cuba, I lit candles, I sang, and I listened. Our community ins’t just about one type of spiritual expression. It’s important that we have times of discussion of scripture and times to enter into the holy mystery of sacred ritual.  I am so grateful for the diverse leadership of this Parish and the many ways I get to nourish my soul through this community. -Eilidh...
Leader Party

Leader Party

I was in a training program called multiplying ministries last year where we learned about how to develop leadership within churches. One of the most brilliant ideas was around celebration. So this past Thursday we gathered a collection of leaders from Trinity and Sellwood Faith Community to celebrate the many years of leadership that they have provided to the Parish. We had treats and flowers to help set the celebratory mood.  As we began our time together folks introduced themselves since we had people who had never met in the room. Then Amanda explained part of the community organizing process and what it meant to have one to ones. A one to one is basically an intentional conversation. Folks listen without comment as one person shares and then they switch the listening and talking roles. The great thing about this gathering was it was a time to celebrate and to help leadership begin practicing some of the community organizing principles that we hope to use to shape our ministry in the neighborhood.  We had three opportunities for one to ones during our party. The first question we focused on was what is giving you life in your ministry area. As I shared I got goose bumps really thinking about all the life giving ministry already unfolding like new relationships being built, new moms coming to coffee, the way my sabbath schedule was grounding me for my work, and how great it has been to get back to preaching.  After the conversations we shared those things that really impacted us with the larger group.  It was lovely to celebrate the...
Nice

Nice

Last month I got to participate in the Transforming Ministries 5 conference.  This is a time for pastors to listen to the stories of innovative and creative business people and then spend some time translating the secular to the sacred. One of the speakers was from Nike.  He has held a variety of jobs with the company over the years, but through all of them he saw a uniting thread in what he calls design thinking.  My favorite thing he said was that the word nice comes from the latin root nescire, meaning not to know or to ignore.  How often do we ignore a problem or not say what we really think because we want to be nice?  He said that empathy and compassion are part of the creative process, but being nice has no place. This is once of my favorite themes because I think that niceness has no place in the church.  The church is not a place for the agreeable or the well behaved, which happen to be the dictionary definitions of nice. So often I have had people sitting in my office saying they couldn’t really voice their doubts or share their spiritual journeys in church because they didn’t want to offend other people.  Parishioners are so interested in making nice with one another that they develop superficial relationships rather than sharing the full beauty of themselves in God. So at Sellwood we’re not nice.  We love each other, we care about each other, we walk with one another, and we listen to each other, but we don’t ignore what is in our hearts and minds.  We ask hard...
If You Build It They Will Come

If You Build It They Will Come

Over our 4 years here at SFC we have had people find us online, by our chalkboard sign, from meet-up groups we run, and through word of mouth.  Folks seeking something have been stirred by the words on our sign or found on our website a glimpse of what they know to be true about God and life. Now that we are part of the SE Portland Parish people are finding us because we have a church building that is home to many community groups.  This week it was the family of a young man who died suddenly. Folks from the family participate in one of the groups and when they had no where else to turn for a funeral they called me. The attractional model of church growth holds that if we have the right programs folks will come to our churches. I’ve been in churches that have movie nights or game days to try to get people in the doors.  What I’ve found is that people aren’t looking for entertainment.  Folks are looking for a place that offers meaning, hope, community, a life line, solace, grace, challenge, connection, and accountability. For far too long in my ministry I have been in the bait and switch business.  Advertise a fun program and stick in a little Jesus.  What I have learned is that people don’t need that, in fact it smacks of dishonesty.  So we lead with Jesus.  I’ve had more people participate in the life of this faith community because of the words “You Are Enough” that we put on our sign than in any of the time I’ve...