Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The summer has been half spent. It has been hot but who is complaining after a long, long winter and cold spring. It has been hot enough in the sanctuary to see us move to the worship center for services on Sunday. It is hard to get the sanctuary cool after the sunshine comes through the windows. The good news is we do tend to sit next to people and the back row is not that far from the front and the singing is good. We have had various styles of hymns and songs – from classic to gospel to contemporary – familiar and new.
Coming this August . . .
WORSHIP . . . Saturday worship throughout the month @ 4:00 pm . . .
August 4, 18, 25 and September 1 at Samuel Church . . . August 18 will be a joint service with Our Savior’s, St. Luke’s, Immanuel (at Samuel) August 11 will be a joint service at Our Savior’s.
August 4 - Reflection and Question Time on the proposed Plan for consolidation of the four congregations . . . following the Sunday worship there will be a fellowship meal – you are invited to bring a salad or dessert.
The Plan was sent to all voting members of the congregation – if confirmed youth have not received a copy one will be made available on Sunday.
The Metro Ministry executive committee will be meeting Monday to recommend a date for the first vote by congregations to vote on the plan and to review the process towards the final vote of accepting a new constitution which will officially bring about the new community called “Harbor of Grace Lutheran Church”.
However, there is a lot to be accomplished before that. An outline of the process will be passed out on Sunday so you will have a better idea of the work ahead.
Neither Pastor Jane, Pastor Jack nor I have ever participated in a process of consolidation.
What is the difference between a consolidation and a merger? Aren’t they the same?
At first glance one might say, yes, they are the same. However the INTENT. the purposes are different.
A consolidation, according to the dictionary is: 1. the action or process of making something stronger or more solid.
2. the action or process of combining a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole.
A merger is “a situation when two or more companies, organizations, departments, etc. join together.” The merger can be amicable or hostile with one party being consumed by another.
Metro Ministries of Muskegon has sought to look at a process leading to the development of a community which is stronger and more effective. As in marriage neither spouse is called upon to lose who and what they are, nor their character, personality and family of origin. We bring who we are and our families into the new relationship while building a new community.
Perhaps this might be seen as semantics, but the intent of the action is what is most important.
I have followed a pastor whose task it was to bring together two congregations in the rural area. They build a new building because one was in need of major repair, and the other was on land not owned by the congregation. That union was in the 1970’s.
Times have changed dramatically for us. I need not repeat them all but here a few: 1) religion is understood as being institutional with all the negativity that infers for younger generations; 2) The place of the Christian church in culture and society has changed dramatically since the 1980’s when so-called evangelicals took on the persona of the “moral majority” – it has been on a downward slide ever since; 3) The weaponization of religious talk, language and authorative writings has isolated, categorized, alienated, and differentiated human beings from each other creating deeper division and hostility between people holding different views.
This does not appear to be a very promising time in which four churches seek to consolidate moving toward raising up a renewed presence of Lutheran Christian in the city. I sometimes wonder why we did not adopt the name “Saint Jude Thaddeus”, identified by our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers as the patron saint of lost or hopeless causes. He was one of the twelve apostles, a brother to Saint James the Less. He was known for preaching the gospel in difficult and challenging circumstances. It was the prayer I learned in summer school of my sophomore year in high school when I flunked the state regent’s exam in geometry. My parents sent to the Xavierian Brother’s High School in Brooklyn. Everyday at the beginning of class we all prayed the prayer together, as Brother Michael said, given the reason we were there.
So, what then shall we say to this? As Saint Paul asked.
Grace is not a word to be weaponized. It is a gift of God which comes to all in the risen dead man named Jesus of Nazareth. The symbol of the cross – though hijacked by fashion designers and charlatans – is still the awful instrument of suffering and death. It is raised above us here at Samuel – which may soon be Harbor of Grace Lutheran Church.
When I first came to Muskegon, I went to the Vikings for a dinner and met an old retired ships pilot with a heavy Norwegian accent. He came over to me. He knew I came from Brooklyn – he grew up three blocks from where I lived, and he knew my Uncle Tony who was a captain of an oil tanker. He told me about the importance of Samuel for him and other pilots “back in the day”. Whether in daylight or at night when the lights lit up the cross on our steeple, it was the sign to point the way to the place to dock the ship. The cross was gold and glimmered in brightly.
It is my hope that that cross will be a point by which people will come and share with us the One who is the Way of reaching out to serve all people, that indeed this will be a safe place flowing with the Good News.
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.”