January now begins my last month working with you as your Interim Minister, and as with most “januaryesque” things I think it’s fair to call it a somewhat bitter-sweet time. I won’t create a valedictory here because we’ve still got work to do; but it’s on my mind.
I wrestled with whether to use my final four Sundays in the pulpit as a “bully” opportunity for whipping up the troops to new ideals and cosmic aspirations; but realized the very thought was tiring and suggested a nap. In recent years I’ve found myself intoning a home-made mantra whenever I encounter anxious rushing to get something done—whether in myself or people around me. It comes from a childhood recollection of a time when my father took me to a Billy Graham “Crusade for Christ” sometime in the 1950’s. I was a youngish teenager and very interested in the church and things theological, and Billy frankly captivated me.
I thought his theology was execrable, but the style and theater of the event gripped and held me. During the “come to Jesus” final call, with George Beverly Shea in full cry, hundreds streaming down the aisles towards certain salvation (or, I existentially wondered even then, the restrooms?), and Billy, like Jesus, calming the Gallilean waves of impatience threatening all the rest of the less motivated multitude with the amplified plea, “You have time to come to Jesus; the busses will wait, the busses will wait...” a sure and certain warning to the grumbling friends or family of those penultimately saved pilgrims on the move.
The "busses," of course, were those long caravans of Greyhound, Trailways, Continental, Uncle Ed's Tours, Comanche Oklahoma Public Schools, Metropolitan Transit, and zillions of other bus lines which had ferried the faithful to the fountain, so to speak, in those days by the thousands. By Billy's command they were going nowhere without being sure their original passengers had finished up with Jesus and were safely back on board no matter how long it took.
And so now in later life that has become my (only slightly tongue-in-cheek) mantra for coping with pressure, rushing, anxiety, impatience and most other variants of catastrophizing:
The Busses Will Wait . . .
(Curiously, it did not seem to occur to Billy that his patient bussing reassurance was diametrically at odds with his apocalyptically urgent, “Come now or else!” theology. Probably he never read anything like Helmut Thielicke’s classic book of sermons The Waiting Father.” It’s a pity that Billy and the so-called evangelicals missed that whole theological boat (bus?), but I am still grateful for his mantra.)
Our interim time together has been relatively brief as these things go, thanks in part to the efficiency of your Pastor Search Committee. And so the sweetly rewarding part of your acceptance and participation in the interim task pairs with the more bitter sense of how much work remains to be done—both for us as a small congregation and for the entire post-Christendom church. The good news is that you have called an extraordinarily able pastor who shares the same commitment to all the transitional work ahead. Still, I will miss it.
So my last four sermons are devoted to a theme that I am fairly confident is more than just my own: “Finding Our Way Home.” These are sermons for while the busses are waiting, so to speak, about some of the defining parameters of our faith:
January 8, 2017: “The End of Hell”
January 15, 2017: “Heaven is the Road to Heaven”
January 22, 2017: “Home is Where . . .”
January 29, 2017: “Born Again and Again and Again and Again . . .”
God willing, this concluding series will not get so chopped up by changing circumstances as my last series did! But if so, the busses will wait.
Blessings to all,
Worship This Week -Sunday, January 8, 2017
9:00 a.m. - Bible Study based on the revised common lectionary readings with The Rev. Bob Moore. 10:00 a.m. - Worship service will include the Celebration of the Lord's Supper. 11:30 a.m. - 2nd Hour, "Christianity: The First 2,000 Years", with Dr. McCollough and Ann Gartner.
Plan to stay after worship next Sunday, January 15for a display, interpretation, and discussion of the Interim Process Team’s “Church In the Mind Drawing Project” (which replaces 2nd Hour). Over the last few months many Christ Congregation members have participated in an open discovery process led by the Interim Team in which your own experiences of Christ Congregation were captured in drawings and follow-up conversation with other members.
This "mental mapping" exercise was pioneered by the world-renowned Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London, England, and has been used in thousands of situations of both personal and organizational analysis, transition, and development. Its purpose is to help the members of a group identify in terms of their own internal images and beliefs what kind of environment they are in (a church, for instance, or a relationship, or a neighborhood, or a job, etc.) . In other words, what is the "map" they carry in their minds of the space in which they now find themselves?
To create those maps we make a simple request of participants after equipping them with sheets of newsprint and different colored magic markers: "Draw a picture of X (in this case, "Christ Congregation") as you yourself experience it. Use your imagination and your feelings; be as creative as you like. Don't "explain" anything. Take about a half hour."
Then the group looks carefully at the pictures: What do they say?(Not, you notice, what the artist thought or meant or intended. . . but What does the picture itself in its simplicity say?) What is missing? What feeling do you get from the picture? And of course, that discussion is what gets interesting
Opportunities to join in were offered in several Newsletters and Sunday bulletins, and now at the direct request of those participants we are offering an “open-house” viewing and conversation about the results.
The drawings and suggestive participant ideas about interpretation will be displayed on the church walls, with viewing and discussion to come during Coffee Hour and 2nd Hour after Worship. Please join in!
Looking Ahead -
January 28, 2017, 6:30 p.m. -Christ Congregation Book Club will meet in the home of the Hardgroves; 81 Fairway Blvd, Monroe Twp, NJ 08831. We will discuss the book Rooster Street: Legacy of a Runaway Slave, written by Janet Purcell, a resident of Hopewell, NJ. She will be joining the discussion.
We are all eager to welcome The Rev. Alexis Fuller-Wright as Christ Congregation’s new pastor with her first preaching and leading in worship on February 5, 2017. The Church Council will soon announce a schedule of welcoming activity and opportunities to meet and greet her in the weeks ahead.
Please be advised that the Church Council has decided to delay our Annual Meeting, the election of officers, and the adoption of the next year's budget until some weeks after the arrival of Mrs. Fuller-Wright so that she can be fully involved in the process.
To submit announcements and suggestions to be included in the CC Newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday each week.
The Rev. Dr. J. Randall Nichols, Interim Minister
Joanne Hardgrove, Organist-Choir Director
Brandi Grove, Church Secretary
Rebecca Fransisco, Seminary Intern
The Rev. Jeffrey Mays, Pastor Emeritus
Office Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.