Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!
Philippians 4:4 (The Message paraphrase)
Last year, I mentioned that I was reading a book called Real Good Church by Rev. Molly Phinney Baskette. Today, I picked it back up again (it was a snow day!), and this is what I read:
“Dying churches are often churches with low self-esteem. Your task … is not to build up the church’s self-esteem but to build up its God-esteem: its sense that God is guiding them and is a big stakeholder and participant in its life and future – the sense that God loves them and is hard at work, and visibly at work, among them.”
She suggests that one way to do that is through celebration. She then goes on to say, “If you feel icky about celebrating, remember that you are not doing it to be self-congratulating, but so people who need a church like yours can find it, and so people who have already found your community can feel proud of it and stay motivated to do good, hard, radical ministry.”
We have so many things to celebrate – so many ways God has guided us and moved among us – I hardly know where to start! We just acknowledged that the Blessings Box has been up and running for a full two years now. We have provided basic necessities for countless families during that time. But, we’ve also provided a means for our community to get involved through their contributions. I’m astonished by the number of folks I don’t know who drop things off. And the Blessings Box was recently a topic of discussion on the Nokesville Community Facebook page – with a person outside the congregation leading the charge to invite more people to get involved through donations. In the last two weeks, there has been a surge in non-perishable food donations! People needed a place to connect with those in need in their community, and we provided it!
Last year, God whispered that we needed to make a concerted effort to care for “the tabernacle” – God’s dwelling place. The Property and Facilities committee estimated that we would need about $150,000 to do the immediate work that needed to be done. In just a little over a year, we have raised over $188,000, and the building looks much more welcoming and is in much better repair. God moved mightily!
We needed a way to care for the older generation in Nokesville, and God moved among us – leading to the creation of the monthly Senior Social Events. We’ve been supporting and encouraging this group for a year and a half, and the community attendees now outnumber those from within our congregation.
For the shut-ins who cannot attend, God invited us to “go”. So, we’ve started a new ministry of gathering quarterly to create “visitation bags”. We just delivered our first round, and two more rounds of bags are prepared, just waiting to be delivered.
We have celebrated many new babies, and God whispered again – leading us to provide two different opportunities to support and encourage new moms. And, so the men of the community wouldn’t be left out, we now have a weekly opportunity for them to exercise and fellowship.
God continues to invite us to look for the next group of folks we can serve. Baskette says as we encounter people, we need to be asking “How does God want us to be church for them, and how can we open our doors even wider? What do they have to offer and teach us – and how can we make their gifts visible? How can we honor their presence among us?”
Celebrate with me the mighty works God has already done! Keep your eyes open for what God has in store. And, invite others to share in the joy of the many ways God is loving on us, and using us to love on our neighbors, here in this place!