By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Recently I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Contemplate This with Tom Bushlack. He interviewed Myra Rucker. Lots of topics were covered in the podcast, but one statement Myra made really stuck with me. Myra, who now lives in MN, was raised in rural Texas in what might be considered a stereotypical rural Texas community. Her father was a college professor and physician. They moved around and each new place added layers to her diverse life experiences. She was the only African-American in her first yoga class. She spoke at great length about how her diverse experiences have allowed her to cultivate a more balanced perspective as she observes how groups of people sometimes hold one another suspect (or at least at arm’s length) and how we can get past those suspicions and stereotypes. When Bushlack, the podcast host, asked Myra about how people can be challenged to grow and become more gracious toward those who are different, she made the statement that really stuck with me: that “sometimes the best thing we can do is not make things worse.” Sounds a little like the Hippocratic oath, doesn’t it?
As a pastor, I fear that often Christian evangelism has made things worse. People are “preached at” rather than “dialogued with.” People are judged and “corrected.” I doubt that is ever very helpful. Certainly we want to spread the message of Jesus; but that message – at its core – is about love and grace.
Trinity continues to take deliberate steps to connect with our neighbors. We want to do so from a posture of hospitality and grace. Of course we want people to hear the gospel. We’d love for people to attend – even join – Trinity. But we need to start with hospitality and graciousness. Some people have had negative church experiences in the past. If they find the courage to step through our doors, we never want to make things worse. We want to begin with simple gestures of welcome and hospitality.
Over the next year, they’ll be many opportunities for you to volunteer at Trinity as we reach out to welcome our community. I hope you will be a part of these important efforts.
The Unseen City Tour is one of those opportunities. This year Trinity will be a stop on the Friends of Downtown Unseen City Tour on Thursday, May 17, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. We hope people will appreciate touring our beautiful, historic church building. But just as importantly, we hope they will feel welcomed by us when they walk through our doors.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
This year during Lent our Sunday worship has included a segment called “We Are the Church Together;” an “interview” with church folks about their engagement with Trinity. We’ve heard from a variety of people (Bronwen Everton, Morris DuBose, Amanda Atkins, Dr. Steve Ash, and Susan Eicher). They’ve shared with us some of the ways they have connected and served and what has made Trinity a special place for them.
Many of you are aware that Trinity was awarded a grant from the conference last year; and received a DNR grant for our brickwork. We are currently applying for additional grants to fund the care of our facilities and our community outreach programs. Many of these grants require reports on metrics related to Trinity’s membership and worship attendance. While membership and worship attendance are important, they represent only a small piece of what Church involves. Being part of a church involves far more than showing up for Sunday worship. The Book of Acts tells the story of the Church’s beginnings. Early in Acts, right after the story of Pentecost, we read a summary statement about what life was like among the early Christians. So, what did it mean to be a part of the early Church? What kind of “metrics” might they have used in the first century? Acts 2:42-47 tells us that the early Christians spent a lot of time with one another: they fellowshipped together and ate meals together; they learned stories of Jesus from the apostles; they prayed together; they worshiped together; they practiced generosity and sharing, being willing to sell possessions so that they might distribute the proceeds of those sales to their brothers and sisters who were in need.
Not surprisingly, our “We Are the Church interviews” have named some of these very same things. Trinity folks have shared the joy they experience in serving those in need, in supporting the church financially, through worship, prayer and being a part of one another’s lives. That’s what it means to be the Church! When we say “We are the Church Together,” the word “together” is just as important as the word “church.” Church is about who we are together in Christ and the work that God is able to do through us together.
Recently, one of our church members, Richard Jewell, had a need. His apartment has steps leading up to the porch.
Because Richard now uses a walker, those steps are difficult for him to manage. Richard needed a ramp to allow him to more easily and safely get out and about to church and other places as well. One church member responded to that need by giving a financial contribution to construct a ramp.
Maintenance team coordinator Bob Lilly did some initial research on constructing the ramp and putting a plan in place. We received permission from the landlord. Then, Trinity’s volunteer maintenance team (see the team picture on the front page!) worked together to construct a ramp for Richard. Richard is so thankful for this blessing. I can’t think of a better example of what it means to be the church together!
Our “We Are the Church Together” interviews will conclude in mid-April. I hope you have taken time to check out the green sheets in the Sunday program to consider ways you can get more engaged at Trinity. I hope you’ve responded by turning in your sheet. On Sunday, April 22, during morning worship, we’ll place all of the green sheets – representing our commitments to being the Church together – on the altar. And we’ll say a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving for those who have committed to being the church together.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
This year during Lent, our sanctuary will be decorated with art that reflects the Protestant Stations of the Cross. (The Protestant Stations differ from the Catholic Stations in that they represent only those scenes substantiated by the gospels.)
Each Sunday throughout Lent, we’ll focus on one station and a gospel story that corresponds with that station’s theme. For example, on the first Sunday, we’ll view the station of the Last Supper and consider Jesus’ Parable of the Great Dinner found in Luke, chapter 14. Both stories share a common theme of Jesus opening up his table and inviting us to dine with him.
I’m excited about this sermon series and the art that will accompany it. All pieces will be original works created by local artists in a variety of mediums. On Sunday, March 11, at 2:00 p.m. we will open our sanctuary to the community to view the art. A concert and readings will be presented at 2:30 p.m.
Following the program, refreshments will be served and those in attendance will have an opportunity to bid on the works of art. However, the art will remain in our sanctuary until Easter. On Good Friday, March 30, our 6:00 p.m. worship service will move us from station to station throughout the sanctuary as we hear the story of our Lord’s Passion and see it reflected in the artwork.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
As I have frequently done since my arrival, I want to start the New Year with an update on Trinity’s Vision and announce an opportunity for all of us to come together to “tune up," refine and reflect on our vision as we continue to “grow in love and service through relationships with God and community.”
In January, 2015, Rev. Dr. Dan Bonner from the Center for Urban Congregational Renewal, consulted with us and delivered recommendations for our church’s renewal and growth. Through his consulting process, we named Trinity’s Vision (see paragraph above). Concerns or obstacles to growth identified by Rev. Bonner included our finances, our lack of a clear evangelism strategy (our “go” strategy), the lack of an effective and clearly-defined small group structure to strengthen and mature disciples, the burden of aging facilities, and a need to draw younger families and young adults. Several of the challenges Dan set before us have been addressed over time.
On January 30, at 6:00 p.m., we will have a Congregational Town Hall Meeting in the sanctuary to discuss next steps. Three things, in particular, will be discussed at this meeting. They are:
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