By Pastor Tracey Leslie
In the spring of 1990, I invited my neighbor in the apartment next to mine to go on an evening grocery store run. I didn’t know my neighbor well. But it was seminary housing; he was a nice young man and we’d begun to talk together on the way to class. Besides, I lived in the city and it was late and I didn’t want to drive through a dicey part of town that late by myself. He agreed. We didn’t know one another well, but on the way back to seminary I made some off-the-cuff remark about the distant future (that I no longer recall) and my neighbor (named Britt) said to me, “Oh, you don’t know; I could significantly alter your future.”
As a matter of fact, he did… Although I would have hardly imagined on that evening so long ago how our lives would intertwine. August 31 marked our 26th wedding anniversary!
As many of you have no doubt noticed, when I preach or teach, I often emphasize that Christianity is not a belief system; but rather a relational system. Being a Christian is about developing and growing a relationship with God through Christ AND – of equal importance – developing authentic, caring relationships with others.
In the spring of 2015, Trinity’s Church Council officially approved our current vision statement: “Growing in love and service through relationships with God and community.” Relationships are what Christianity is about. Relationships are what Trinity must be about.
Now that we have reduced our facilities (and the time, money and energy needed for their upkeep), we can focus more time and energy on building relationships. This September, Trinity will be launching several new small group study and fellowship opportunities as a part of our Ready Set Grow program. Jeremy Grossman has written a great article about the value of discipleship and a new study he will be leading on Sunday mornings. Check it out on page 6. Monday evenings will also be time set aside for group gatherings. Morris DuBose continues meeting with his Story Group as a critical component of our Ready Set Grow process. Beginning September 18, Abby Lietz Agee will be leading a women’s study on the first and third Mondays of each month. Also beginning Sept. 18, Terry Stamper will be leading a men’s study every third Monday of the month. Kristi Evans will resume her once monthly ladies gathering in her home on the 4th Monday of each month. And Ruth Smith, our Community Engagement Coach will be leading studies on the second Monday of each month to bring together members of our church and community to examine critical issues about building stronger communities and addressing community needs.
Nothing changes our lives as dramatically as relationships. I hope you’ve found value in the relationships you’ve formed at Trinity whether you’ve been here several months or decades. I hope you’ll take a step
toward deepening those relationships by engaging in a small group study this fall. Also, keep in mind that small group study is an ideal way to invite friends to check out Trinity. What better gift could you offer a friend than the opportunity to experience hospitality, make new friends, and deepen their relationship with Christ and others?
Living God’s Vision for Trinity
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
In the spring of 2015, after our work with church growth consultant Rev. Dr. Dan Bonner, Trinity adopted a new Vision Statement: Growing in love and service through relationships with God and community.
On occasion, members have asked me: “Who is the community; us or the neighborhood?” And I have replied, “Yes!” In other words, our goal is to be ONE community. Have you noticed Trinity’s new logo? It is a graphic representation of people in a circle, connecting with one another. Christianity isn’t a belief system; it is a relational system. Being a Christian is about being in relationship with God through Jesus AND (of equal importance) being in relationship with others through the experience of Christian community.
This fall, Trinity will launch its annual stewardship campaign. When we think of stewardship, we often think of money. When we think of money, we often think of paying the bills. But Trinity – even our facilities and structures – are ultimately about community and relationships.
On August 27 at our Celebration Luncheon we will celebrate more than the retirement of our debt and improvements to our church’s brick façade. We will also celebrate the blessing that – without debt and our Education Building – our expenses are reduced and more money is made available for building relationships!
This fall, beginning August 27 and continuing through October, we’ll consider Stewardship a little differently as we focus on Building, Growing and Connecting.
I hope this fall you will be as engaged at Trinity as your schedule permits. I hope you will come to treasure – as I have come to cherish – opportunities to break bread, to worship, to learn, to grow, to serve, and to experience community in new and exciting ways. Let us Build, Grow and Connect that we might live out God’s vision for Trinity.
Did you have a favorite story as a child? I did. Mine was The Fire Cat by Esther Averill. It was the story of a homeless cat named Pickles. With no one to care for him, Pickles terrorized other cats in the neighborhood. But a woman in the neighborhood named Mrs. Goodkind saw potential in Pickles. Through a strange twist of circumstances, Pickles becomes the Fire House cat whose life is turned around when he discovers his purpose in rescuing other cats that become stranded in trees. Pickles’ life changes because of Mrs. Goodkind’s compassion and encouragement. At one point in the story, she pronounces this promise over Pickles’ life: “Pickles, you are a big cat with big paws and someday you will do big things.”
As you all know, I’m much more of a dog person. Yet, the story of Pickles made a deep impression on me. That little story taught me something about life and the power of love to effect change in people’s lives. A good story has great power…
In the upcoming months, we hope to build stronger relationships with our neighborhood and the sharing of our stories will be an important part of that process. We hope to begin our outreach with Ruth Smith’s Photovoice project designed to capture the stories of our neighborhood. Ruth will draw together members of our church and those who live and work in the Centennial Neighborhood to share their stories through photo narrative.
During the month of April, you’ll hear more about our Community Garden. There will be neighborhood walks to invite our neighbors to get involved. We plan to host Community Cookouts to draw together members of our community for food and fellowship; so we can get to know one another and share our stories with one another. On each Sunday in April, during morning worship, members of this team will share ways you can become engaged in this initiative.
Another team of Trinity folks will meet with teachers and administrators at Miller Elementary School in hopes of identifying families in need with whom we can build relationships over the course of the school year. Along with providing school supplies, we’ll come together regularly for food and fellowship and, once again, have the opportunity to share our stories with one another and build relationships. This team will make announcements in worship throughout the month of May.
Beginning in July, Morris DuBose will lead a small group of Trinity folks who will come together to share their stories with one another over the course of several weeks. Sharing our stories allows us to become more aware of God’s grace moving in our lives. Knowing our history provides the opportunity for us to view our individual stories through the lens of faith. Author Lisa Hess writes:
You know less about yourself now than you will when you have shared your story. If you are willing to risk becoming more aware of the mystery of being human and a child of God, you will come to hear unexpected elements of your own story...
Our biblical gospels are stories that draw us into relationship with Jesus. I hope in the upcoming months that you will get engaged in these various groups that will allow us to fulfill Trinity’s vision of growing in love and service through relationships with God and community.
Read more about the Community Garden.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
As I am writing this article, it is February 15. I had church meetings on Valentine’s Day so, this evening, Britt and I will go out to dinner. We value our time together because it strengthens our relationship. Christianity is about relationship and our relationship with Jesus must also be cultivated with purposeful actions that both express and nurture our commitment. This year’s Lenten series will focus on Christian spiritual practices that find their roots in Judaism. Although Jesus condemns hypocrisy among some religious leaders, he embraces spiritual practices such as fasting, praying and alms giving as ways of nurturing and expressing our relationship with the heavenly Father.
Along with the sermon series, two small groups will also be offered:
Sunday mornings (beginning March 5 and concluding April 2) at 9:15 a.m. in the parlor will be a more traditional study of the spiritual practice of that week in light of scripture and tradition.
On Wednesday evenings (beginning March 8 and concluding April 5) Rabbi Phil Cohen from Temple Israel will join us to discuss the practice from a Jewish perspective. Phil Cohen is an ordained Reform rabbi. He is currently the Interim Rabbi at Temple Israel. He holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University and an MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville. His interests include ethics, theology, the Hebrew Bible, Jewish history, the state of Israel, and writing fiction. His novel The Search for Shmulie Shimmer has recently been accepted for publication by Fig Tree Books.
The Wednesday group will begin with a light meal of soup, bread, fresh fruit and veggies at 6:00 p.m. (If you can help by providing a soup, please contact Mary Jo Risk or phone the church office.) The discussion will begin shortly before 6:30 and conclude at 7:30. Classes will cover:
1. Fasting in Judaism is associated with several holidays and with other occasions as well. This class will look at four primary fasts in the Jewish year: Yom Kippur, the Fast of Esther (associated with Purim), the Fast of the First Born (associated with Passover), and the Ninth of Av (a holiday associated with the destruction of the first and second Temples).
2. Kashrut, Jewish dietary laws have been with the Jews for millennia. They concern slaughter of animals, of separation of meat and dairy, prohibited foods, and a variety of other rules and regulations. Though unusual to the untrained ear (to say the least!), these rules have their own internal logic to a certain extent and have kept the Jews united for centuries.
3. Hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests. Ever since Abraham welcomed four strangers into his home, the idea of welcoming the stranger has been an important aspect of the Jewish self-identity. We'll look at some texts and at some ways that Jewish communities implement these rules.
4. The Jewish Sabbath, from Friday night to Saturday night, is filled with legend, ideas, rituals, and foods. This week, we will meet on Tuesday, March 28 at Temple Israel to learn more about the rituals that accompany the observing of Shabbat (Sabbath).
5. Jewish mourning customs are complex and require great attention if one is to fulfill them completely. At the same time, they provide a brilliant spiritual and psychological means for working through the grief associated with the death of a loved one.
Both small groups will use the book Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. Winner was raised as an Orthodox Jew and converted as an adult to Christianity (Episcopal Church). While fully embracing her new faith, she reflects on how much she misses the richness of Jewish ritual that gave deep meaning to her life of faith. Books are available for purchase via the church office for $10.
I hope you will participate in one, or both, of these small groups. Since each session is a different spiritual practice, you are welcome to participate as your schedule permits.
Something Old, Something New Sermon Series
March 5: Hungry, Hungry, Hungry
The spiritual practice of Fasting (Tzum)
March 12: Ripe and Ready
(John 4:5-8, 27-38
The spiritual practice of Fitting Food (Kashrut)
March 19: Redeeming Welcome
The spiritual practice of Hospitality (Hachnassat orchim)
March 26: Sacred Sabbath
(John 9:1-17, 24-34)
The spiritual practice of Sabbath (Shabbat)
April 2: Good Grief
(John, chapter 11)
The spiritual practice of Mourning (Avelut)
What's New at Trinity
Keep up to date on the happenings at Trinity