It has been an exciting few months preparing for this coming Sunday’s anniversary worship service. For me, it has been an opportunity to review written history, reach out to UCU’s former pastors, enjoy perusing some old photos (and hairstyles!), and wonder what the next 50 years will bring. How dearly I hope that when the next timeline is drawn, it will include a small neighborhood of perpetually affordable homes this church helped to create. But I know there will be much that we cannot yet envision.
I wonder about how our language and worship will evolve, how we’ll talk about God in a society that is increasingly religiously diverse (not a bad thing!), while ever seeking that ancient path where the good way lies.
I wonder about the folks who have yet to set foot inside our church, but will someday. What will it be that draws them in? An invitation from a neighbor, the scent of Harvest Market cookies, a memorial service or vigil, the need for shelter? Will there be afterschool programs, arts events, rallies for peace and justice, support groups, fitness classes, or a famous preacher making the rounds? Who can say?
Our theme for both our anniversary and Consecration Sunday on Nov. 12 is “We are still growing.” Last Sunday, we saw a tree appear in our sanctuary, with roots representing our denominational histories, and trunk and branches representing the ministries of the church as we’ve grown together. On Nov. 12, we’ll add some leaves to those branches as we commit our financial pledges for 2024, the first of our next 50 years.
As we think of the tree and our ministry as a church, two agricultural and scriptural metaphors come to mind. The first is that to everything there is a season. As the written history for this event describes, there have been several ministries, projects, groups, and ideas that served the church well for a while, but are no longer active. For example, while we no longer have the Women’s Fellowship, their industry and successful fundraising saw the church through many a need. The fruit of that ministry today lives on in several places: the women’s lunch group for fellowship, Membership & Evangelism for funeral support, and likely in a memorial fund or two that the trustees now oversee.
The second and related metaphor is that we reap what we sow. Much of any anniversary focuses on celebrating past fruits, but it is also a chance to consider the seeds that need sowing now. A continued concern of mine is providing meaningful ministry to children, youth, and their families in our day and beyond. Churches everywhere are aware that old models of youth group and Sunday School rarely meet current needs, but we haven’t yet recognized what might work best. And I say that as both a pastor and a parent in said demographic. So, we keep praying and sowing—trying new methods and approaches that might better meet the season.
If there is a time to reap and a time to sow, perhaps our 50th is the time to do both. This week, we’ll celebrate the fruits that we’ve seen and those we anticipate based on past planting. And on Nov. 12, we’ll reach into the seed bag, pledging our gifts and offering an investment for what we cannot yet see, but which we plant in hope and faith for future fruit.
With great anticipation,