Discerning the Body and Saying "Not Now"


Back in January and February, you might remember that I hosted a series of conversations relating to worship times and our Sunday morning at St. James.  These "Listening Posts" were sparked by what I was hearing back in the Fall from a few different corners of the St. James community.  Some were saying that our life together as a worshiping community would benefit from a schedule change.  Others were not so sure.  As Pastor, it seemed like we needed to do some discernment.

Discerning where the body of Christ is on a particular issue, topic or practice isn't always the easiest thing to do.  It can be messy work.  This is especially true when we have folks with passions on both sides of things and conflicting ideas.  Discernment is a spiritual process that encourages an honesty in sharing differences AND a listening to those who see things differently.   

As a pastoral leader, it is my job to make sure that when we are faced with divergent views that a table is set where our core Christian values are honored and guide our conversations.  This is especially needed in our current and divisive culture that draws battle lines all too quickly.  It is all too easy for us to shut down communication with those holding contrary opinions.  The church is called by its Lord Jesus to take an alternative path. 

It is a firm belief of mine that the table fellowship of Jesus, as witnessed throughout the gospels, invites Christians to engage with each other in a way that listens, respects, and affirms each other.  I am proud of the unique conversations that we have had around sexual orientation, gun violence, and biblical interpretation.  Even though at the end of these conversations we remained committed to our opinions, informed by our experiences, we born a greater witness and commitment to Christ.  We loved each other, even where we passionately disagreed.  

Listening. Honoring.  Respecting.  Remaining in Christ.  These are all important aspects of the work of discernment.  They have once again guided the conversations that we had related to our Sunday morning schedule.

After three months of discernment, here is what I heard.  Some of our older members are finding it harder to get up on Sunday mornings for our 9:30 a.m. worship.  It was even indicated that anything before noon was too early!  Many more folks, however, find our current time fits their Sunday morning needs.  After much listening, the common wisdom seems to say to leave our schedule as it is.  In a report to Council, I recommended that no change be made at this time. 

For our older folks who wanted to see an earlier time, I have added a monthly worship at 11:00 a.m. at Savage Senior Living.  This is open to any one who would like to attend.  I will also be suggesting at our Ministry Planning Night (next Tuesday, April 17) to offer a noon worship for seniors.  If I get others who are interested in helping out, we would do this once a quarter.   

I want to thank everyone who took part in the conversations.  Your input and the way in which you shared was consistent with our G.R.A.C.E. (God's Grace, Respect, Appreciation, Compassion, Encouragement) values.  We will continue to ask where God is calling us to be as Christ's body in this place and time.  I look forward to our ongoing discernment.

Christ is Risen Indeed! 

Pastor Walt