Despite predictions of morning thunderstorms, we were able to have our Easter sunrise service. We gathered in silence before dawn, heard John 2: 4-14, sang together, and then had smelt (also known as "little fishies") cooked over a charcoal fire, bread, and hot drinks. Afterwards we gathered for an Easter hymn sing and brunch at Faith House.
We had our 3rd annual retreat at Camp Friedenswald on February 25 and 26. It fell during Goshen College's spring break, so we only had one college student present, making for a smaller group than in previous years. We still sang, played, ate, and enjoyed Sunday morning worship in the Nature Center. There was even a dusting of snow, an unusual event this winter. Below is a slideshow with a few scenes from our time together.
We are in the midst of a congregational conversation about open communion, using the MC Canada resource Come, Lord Jesus, Be our Host, by Elsie Rempel. Here is the link. This takes you to a 60-some page pdf, but don't worry -- the suggested reading for any of our times is always short, from 2 - 10 pages.
We worked with her Session 1 at our March discernment meeting and during the weeks from just before Easter through Pentecost, we are drawing on her Session 2 for biblical stories where Jesus breaks bread with people. We'll be picking up her other Sessions at upcoming discernment meetings.
Resource Mapped to Worship Schedule.
Our interaction with this resource is not happening in a tidy linear fashion since the work with the biblical stories is spread over seven weeks and the discernment meetings are mixed in among them. To see a chronological presentation of what is happening when, go to our Worship Schedule. Suggested readings are in the Notes column.
Our Schedule Mapped to a Summary of the Resource
To see an overview of Rempel's Sessions, look here. Under each Session's title, you'll find a few lines summarizing what is covered in that Session. In the second paragraph (in italics), you'll find a sentence beginning "Background for. . ." This connects the Session material with the themes, questions and factors that we named at our last discernment meeting. This italicized section also tells you when and in what setting we are working with this material.
We gathered silently before dawn again this Easter Sunday, enjoying the birdsong and the clear sky, coping with the March temperatures and the blare of the train whistle from the nearby track. As the sun came up, Erin read John 21: 1 - 14 and we sang Lord of the Dance. And then she said, "Come and have breakfast."
Most of us went on to Faith House, where others joined us for more singing of Easter songs and readings, followed by brunch and more opportunities to visit and laugh together.
In a recent post on the MC USA website, Rachel Gerber, denominational minister to youth and young adults, sends a message to small congregations, with words of appreciation for her own small fellowship. Rachel is part of Bloomington Mennonite Fellowship, where Erin was before moving back to Goshen. Here's the link:
To small congregations: you are enough.
This coming Sunday, January 24, we will be celebrating another step in our exploration of how to combine growth with maintaining a small inter-generational worship experience. After several months of being a "test bud" and an "anchor," we are now a 9:00 worship circle and an 11:00 worship circle, both meeting at Faith House. The 9:00 group starts their time with breakfast together, followed by worship; the 11:00 group begins with worship, followed by a simple soup and bread meal.
This Sunday the 9:00 circle will meet at their regular time, but we'll have an overlapping time for fellowship beginning at 10:45, followed by a time of blessing each other and asking for God's blessing on the network, from 11:00 - 11:30, with the 11:00 circle then continuing with their worship and meal.
We spent time at yesterday's discernment meeting brainstorming ways of maintaining our connections -- times of overlapping fellowship between the two worship times, possibly hymn sings, potlucks and/or discernment meetings on a Wednesday night every month or every six weeks. And we'll be having our retreat together at Camp Friedenswald on January 30 - 31st, with worship on Sunday at 10:00. Notice the banner photo above, from last year's retreat -- you can just glimpse some of the snowstorm that nearly had us staying there an extra day!
If you have ideas on how we remain connected as we add a new worship circle, let us know!
Given the space at Faith House and the numbers we had last spring, and our interest in exploring organic growth options, over the summer we asked whether there were people who were interested in being part of a test bud, and there were. In late September, five people began meeting at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning at Faith House, testing a model of having breakfast together and then worship, seeing how it works to have back-to-back services in the same space. So far we’ve been hearing enthusiastic reports, and that having five is fine for this early exploratory phase. They don’t anticipate staying that small and are very open to visitors or others who would like to explore with them.
Both the 9:00 group and the 11:00 group are part of one Open Table, so we are all exploring this with and through them. Leadership Group will continue to review how things are going for the bud, and how things are going for the 11:00 group. The bud may decide to experiment with the details of when and where. Together we may decide that it isn’t quite time yet for a network. Or we may be surprised and delighted by what unfolds. It’s early days yet – let’s keep watching.
There's something I want to "throw out there" after a conversation with Susan Setiawan and somebody else (forget who!) a couple of Sundays ago. The idea is to try to get permission to use the old Abshire mansion, new Maple City Health Care center (where Susan works), as a meeting place. She says there is a room about 1/2 again the size of Faith and they have a kitchen there too. One negative would be a farther bike ride for students, and others. Susan felt pretty sure that they would agree to our use, since they are all about sharing the space with the community.
We would love to hear updates from those of you who have been studying abroad, or doing service in other locations this summer. Where were you and what are one or two things that stand out for you as you reflect on that time?
Like the public square at the center of old European towns, this forum is a place to continue discussions begun during worship or in a small group gathering. It is intended for participants of Open Table. If you're a potential visitor with questions, please email us.