When ministry is revealed...

Funny how ministry is... revealed, yes? When I first started I was convinced that I had to MAKE things happen. That is, I not only needed to conceptualize the necessary actions our congregation needed to embrace, but it was essential for me to chart and steer the course, too. Of course, that was mostly hubris and naivete, but I believed it and tried to give it a go in my first two congregations. Nothing like a hard divorce to knock a cocky young minister on his/her  ass and show him/her that most of life is totally beyond our control. Most of the time, the BEST we can do is learn how to crash without burning and do so with the semblance of humility and grace.

Besides, there is just no FUN in forcing people into activities that might be good for them when they have no ownership or joy. By the time Tucson rolled around, I was trying to practice more patience in discerning where the Spirit might be calling us as a people of faith.  Oh, I botched that a number of times in Tucson, too but I did start to see how opportunities for action more often than not grew organically from within the congregation.  If I was watching and waiting - trusting God's grace more than my own insights - then ways to serve others would sprout up when the time was right. Certainly that was how our Open and Affirming ministries ripened in the desert. And the same was true with our lay ministries and congregational acts of compassion, too.

 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
   so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 
 Take delight in the Lord,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Commit your way to the Lord;
   trust in him, and he will act. 
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
   and the justice of your cause like the noonday. 
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
   do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices.

That continues to be true as we get ready to close our seventh year in ministry here. Just yesterday, for example, I received an invitation for us to participate in the Better Future Project's Summer Climate internship. (for more information, go to: http://www.betterfutureproject.org/) This intensive youth effort recruits young people 18-25 for the following:

Climate Summer is a summer internship program for college students, graduate students, and recent graduates. Climate Summer riders travel exclusively by bicycle in small teams across New England, spending approximately one week in a community before biking on to the next. While in each town, riders connect with community leaders who are actively addressing society’s addiction to fossil fuels by crafting local solutions that strengthen communities. Riders bring with them a movement-building perspective, empowering those they meet and helping to highlight the important work of local organizations with the local press and in our digital Movement Map, which will catalogue the efforts of groups in each community visited.

They needed a place to sleep for 10 nights - a home base in Western MA - and when I shared it with my leadership team, people jumped on it right away. For that I am grateful. But what is even more satisfying to me is HOW word got out that we might be receptive to this project. Seven years ago, I invited those in the church who were interested in social justice efforts to spend some time with me in study and prayer:  what is the Spirit calling us to focus on? At that time, our ministries of outreach were all over the map with a little bit of money going here and a little bit of time going there. It was good hearted but not very deep or meaningful.

So, over a few months of talking and prayer - listening to the heart of the wider congregation AND interviewing social justice people throughout the region - one of the commitments we felt needed to be engaged had to do with the pollution of the Housatonic River. After talking and meeting with some of the various groups working on this, we came to believe that BEAT (Berkshire Environmental Action Team) resonated with us the best. Not only were they advocates for cleaning the PCBs but they held regular river clean-up events to haul the garbage out of the water and worked on other actions to keep a healthy balance of wildlife and development in our region. 

Over these seven years our connection with BEAT has matured - lots of energy goes into the summer river clean-up events - and those hands-on acts have put us into relationship with other environmental activists.  Last year, we held a music benefit for BEAT, too and that deepened our connection.  (We're doing another on Sunday, August 19th @ 3 pm) So when the Better Future Project started looking for shelter for their interns they contacted BEAT and... well the rest is unfolding and we've met new allies in a way that feels organic and right.

We're going to learn a lot from these young interns. I hope they can learn a little from us too - especially about hospitality. There is a whole lot to be said about Psalm 37:  be still before the Lord and wait patiently...


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