I want a church where you really belong. Where you are known and cared about. Where you are challenged, encouraged, listened to and where you grow. I know church can be like that. I’ve seen it. The best community I have had in my life has centered around Jesus. There is a real community with other people in knowing and loving Jesus. And yet, the most awkward, painful, exclusionary, combative and upsetting community experiences I have ever had, have been consistently in the church. Because this is true for me, I have searched long and hard to better understand why being church can fail so miserably and continue to seek to discover what will unlock our ability to truly be “together” in Christ – to belong to one another.
Have you ever been in search of something that persistently eludes you? I have so admired Rachel Held Evan’s work at getting clear with herself about what the church’s core gifts and opportunities are to build meaningful, accepting and vibrant community. In her book, “Searching for Sunday,” you can walk with her through her personal journey and at the same time, explore your own sense of searching for “church” where you feel welcome, at home, yourself and alive to God. Her sense of the gifts and core values of church are a rich theological and very concrete / personal expression of vibrant community.
I invite you to follow her journey through “Searching for Sunday,” so that you too can become even more clear about the opportunities for discovery, renewal, fulfillment and belonging that can be alive to you in church and in the community. Perhaps we too are searching for new and deeper fruitfulness in our church and interpersonal lives.
Who doesn’t want to have a sense of true belonging? If we were going to grow or create a deeper sense of true belonging in our congregation, what would we need to know about ourselves and about true belonging? Brené Brown has powerful answers for those questions in her courageous book, “Braving the Wilderness.” We would do well to make this book a primer for how to handle conflict, speak for ourselves, keep good boundaries and forge strong ties and keep them strong. Why don’t they teach us this stuff somewhere so we can be prepared to be community, to be the church and to belong to one another? I think it is ironic that we seek Jesus at church and still manage to fail to learn how to be community together.
“Braving The Wilderness” is consistently the best discussion and guide for dealing with virtually every difficult experience I’ve had in community and society, including the church. I wish we could all read it and begin to work together at becoming a place (a people) where grace and true belonging thrive.
My friends, my siblings in Christ, my community of hope in Christ, I am very proud of so much that we are and so much that we do together. I also am hungry for us to deepen our connection and sense of belonging to each other. Both Rachel and Brené’s writings have the potential to nurture each of us along this journey to being available and present to each other. Pick up a copy. Listen to the audio book. I’ll keep a few hard copies around, too, if you want to borrow one. We are a people in mission and that journey takes us into each other’s lives. This is how Christ builds the church. One to another.
New York Times best-selling author Rachel Held Evans embarks on a quest to find out what it really means to be part of the Church. Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn’t want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals – Church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back. And so she set out on a journey to understand the Church and to find her place in it.
Centered around seven sacraments, Evans’ quest takes listeners through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest.
A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.
A timely and important new audiobook that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture, from the number one best-selling author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection.
Hello Sunshine book club pick
“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives – experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.
Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.”
Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”
Words for this time in our community, in our Nation and in our hearts.
Join me on Sunday, August 11 during fellowship where we will take about 15-minutes and discuss 5 techniques to welcome someone new.
As you know, we have been trying to establish a “Welcome Team” that will provide consistency and be intentional about creating an atmosphere where all who enter our doors feel welcomed and valued.
On August 11th , we will offer some insights as to the kinds of things that reflect that sentiment. Bring your ideas too! What makes you feel welcomed in new situations/places? What gives you pause and leaves you uneasy? Perhaps while reading this some ideas are already bubbling to the surface. Send me an e-mail and we can get the conversation started. It would be fun to get some ideas and begin to communicate before the 11th. firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s learn together how we can best display what it means to truly welcome others into the community of Good Sam.
Gail Wathen, Council President
It’s Christmas time and undoubtedly many of our minds are focused on our families, holiday preparations, parties and presents. We look forward to the birth of our Savior and celebrate all that He provides. In places around the country and world, especially those affected by disaster, people struggling to have the basic necessities for survival may find it hard to see a reason to celebrate. God has given us generous hearts and at this time of year, thoughts of reaching out with kindness and that generosity strongly come to our hearts and minds.
We work in our communities with and among our neighbors and now we have an opportunity to help in another area–Puerto Rico. Next summer, over the course of two weeks, from July 21 through August 3, a group of mostly adult and some high school-aged volunteers from the state will be working in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of Puerto Rico and serving alongside our Puerto Rican neighbors in their continued process of rebuilding and strengthening communities after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico. The hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean, with total losses estimated at upwards of $91 billion, mostly in Puerto Rico, ranking it as the third-costliest tropical cyclone on record.
A team of experienced leaders, including Pastor Mark Parker, of Breath of God Lutheran Church, Baltimore, MD is working to bring together the group of adult and youth volunteers from the region. The bulk of work efforts will focus on construction, with a mix of skilled and unskilled volunteers. Our volunteers last year ranged from age 21 to age 70. This summer we will also accept some youth who have already completed 9th grade.
Are You Interested in Being a Volunteer?
If you are interested in being a volunteer, here are a few more details. We will be staying in the Lutheran camp in Maguayo, near Dorado–about 45 minutes west of San Juan. The camp has room for up to sixty volunteers at a time. Volunteers sleep in bunk rooms with twin-sized bunk beds and communal showers–comfortable enough, but nothing fancy. The camp also includes a very nice pool, a chapel, office and storage areas, and a main hall for dining/meeting/organizing/relaxing. It’s a good home for groups like ours.
The general timeline is fly out on Sunday morning/afternoon and fly back on Saturday evening. Volunteers will serve over the course of two weeks from July 21 to August 3. Volunteers may sign up for one or both weeks. Monday through Friday we’ll worked construction doing rebuilding in the morning and the afternoon, with time in the late afternoon/evening for the beach/pool, relaxing and exploring the area. We may have the opportunity to take a half day to head across the island and visit El Yunque, an amazing tropical rain forest or explore in Old San Juan.
Registration opens in January with a deadline of April 1. The first deposit will be due at the close of registration, the second payment will be due May 1 and the final payment July 1. The expected cost is anticipated to be less than $600 for one week and less than $900 for two weeks.
If you are interested in volunteering for this unique and rewarding opportunity, please contact Kelly Thurber, our Mission and Outreach Coordinator. More information–including fundraising opportunities–will be forthcoming, but positions are anticipated to fill up quickly, so please let Kelly know if you are interested so she can keep the regional team up-to-date on our interest levels.
As we get together with our family and friends and share the joy and peace of this holiday season, let us keep those who have suffered loss in our hearts and minds. And look forward to the days when we will have the opportunity to give a broader set of neighbors a Merrier Christmas. Feliz Navidad.
On Saturday, Sept. 8 from 9 A.M. – 12 Noon, we’ll have an all-congregation “God’s Work. Our Hands.” activity as we gather at Farming 4 Hunger—Serenity Farms in Benedict, MD. This activity gathers our Tri-County ELCA partners–St. Nicholas Lutheran, Huntington MD and Peace Lutheran, Waldorf, MD churches
to harvest, enjoy fellowship and get to know each other and everyone at the Farm. Come meet our neighbors where they are and make new connections! Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with our partners. They’ll be inside and outside tasks to do for all physical levels. Here are some items you might want to bring along (if you have them) in prep for the harvest: wear your God’s Work. Our Hands. T-shirts, gloves (for you and kiddos), shovel, spade, hoe, digging fork, water to keep hydrated and a picnic lunch. Come and join us! All are fed at the farm.
Bang. Frieda popped into my head. Why would that be? Sometimes a particular person will just pop into your head. Have you had this happen to you? You might know why, or maybe you have no idea at that moment why you are thinking about that person.
Something like this happens to Barnabas when he was sent to Antioch to investigate some rumors. What was happening there? Why were these Jewish Christians having interactions with Greek speaking people and how is it that these Greeks were receiving Jesus? Barnabas was amazed at what he saw. It warmed his heart and inspired his spirit to see that the faith of these new Greek Christians we bright, alive and Spirit filled. How could this be? What was God doing and who would know how to engage this new possibility?
What he saw, warmed his spirit and engaged his mind… and he thought of Saul, well Paul actually. Some years earlier Saul of Tarsus have been converted to faith in Christ after he had previously persecuted Jewish Christians. But his first months of Christian life and faith had gotten him into more debates, scrabbles and augments than any of these young Christians were comfortable with. So, he was invited to return home to Tarsus.
But Barnabas remembers Saul, who had become “Paul” in his conversion. He remembered how insightful and passionate Paul’s was. Barnabas remembered that Paul grew up in a Greek speaking community and understood these Gentiles as well as the Christian faith. He might be a perfect fit to encourage this new community in faith.What he saw, warmed his spirit and engaged his mind… and he thought of Saul, well Paul actually. Some years earlier Saul of Tarsus have been converted to faith in Christ after he had previously persecuted Jewish Christians. But his first months of Christian life and faith had gotten him into more debates, scrabbles and augments than any of these young Christians were comfortable with. So, he was invited to return home to Tarsus.
God as a way of making use of each of our unique gifts, experiences and abilities, even when they seem to not be valued or needed at one time or another. It is always our work to find the places where God will use us to make a difference in the lives of others. Barnabas played his role and helped Paul find his.
God is still doing wonders among us like this, building community and shaping our lives to care for people we come to meet and know. It is a curious wonder how God works in our lives filled with great graciousness. This work we do of finding our neighbors along the journey of faith can indeed be godly work, filled with the activity of Christ among us.
Just as my heart is thankful for Barnabas and Paul, so I pray for this time and our gifts that we might be alive in the Spirit and attentive to God’s activity within us and around us. This is the Graciousness of God at work. AMEN.
–Pastor Mitch Watney
During a recent Good Sam Council meeting, Isaiah Mack outlined a request to the council to present his mission trip to Costa Rica this summer to the congregation. With their approval, he’ll present his request for prayers and support with this mission trip this Sunday. Isaiah will be traveling to Costa Rica in June with other students from his Honors Spanish class at The King’s Christian Academy to assist with home building for a needy family and spreading God’s Word.
With the deadline for funds due April 15th, Isaiah writes about his plans, hopes and request:
“I have an exciting opportunity coming up this summer that I’d like to share with you. As part of my growing desire to join God in serving people in need all over the world, I will be traveling to Costa Rica with other students from my Honors Spanish class at The King’s Christian Academy for a 1-week service project. Our team of students and staff will be departing on June 11 and returning June 16. I am writing this letter to invite your financial partnership with me in this endeavor.
The trip has been planned and designed by The King’s Christian Academy in partnership with Joshua Expeditions, a Christian non-profit organization. Since 1997, Joshua Expeditions has been providing Christian schools with quality educational travel designed to inspire purpose in the lives of others. They have designed this trip to provide us with the best experience possible in the 6 days that we will be traveling, allowing us to serve the people of Costa Rica and share with them the love of Jesus Christ. You can learn more about them by visiting their website at www.joshuaexpeditions.org.
Our days in Costa Rica will be spent building a home for a needy family. The family will be presented with their home on our 5th day, then we will help the family move their belongings into their new home. As we work to meet the physical needs of the local residents, opportunities will open to meet their spiritual needs as we explain that Jesus is the reason we choose to serve them. It is my hope that God will be expanding our hearts and giving us a broader perspective of His involvement in the whole world.
I am writing to ask for your help in getting to Costa Rica. To participate in this trip I would love your prayers for my preparation and travels. I also need to raise money for airfare, room and board, and other travel expenses. I will need $2,750.00 by April 15th to join the trip.
Thank you so much for prayerfully considering if this is something you would like to participate in. May God bless you for your time and support.”
Sincerely, Isaiah Mack
If you are interested in helping support Isaiah on his journey, contributions can be made to Good Sam with the trip name “Joshua Expeditions” in the memo line. We will send the contributions to them in Isaiah’s name.
In response to the violence and tragedy at Great Mills High School today, March 20, 2018, a community Prayer Service is being held at Church of the Ascension (21641 Great Mills Rd, Lexington Park, MD 20653). The service begins at 6:00pm, this evening, March 20th and a number of local clergy will participate. All are welcome!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4
I have always thought that asking questions of your faith, about how it is alive in you was the point of the Lenten Season. I just haven’t figured out how eating fish on Friday or giving up watermelon for the season would really have much of an impact of whether I loved or trusted God. I wonder how my faith can be real enough to help me parent meaningfully and love my neighbor in a way that is pleasing to God and helps me grow as a person. I am always looking for tools that will help me further or deepen my learning to love God with all my heart and mind and strength. I don’t think it is surprising that I found a conversation partner in a Divinity School Professor (assistant professor). It doesn’t surprise me that she is bright, witty and shares from the heart easily. But I am deeply grateful that she is a parent of a two (now three) year old and that she can write and speak from places of great joy and deep pain in her life. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that this thirtysomething writer is facing the ravages of stage IV cancer treatment. But what does surprise me is that Kate Bowler can write, speak, blog and engage some of the toughest veneers that our cultures has to offer and invite us into a deeper, honest and unvarnished beauty that loving God can fill us with while we yet live in this challenging world.
So this Lenten Season, I invite you to walk this journey with me and with Kate Bowler as we read together her book about facing life, faith and the way the world is through her book “Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I have Loved.” So, Here is my challenge to you for Lent.
1) Get the book (Here, if that helps).
2) Join us in class. We’ll meet at Good Sam, right after Vespers (6:30 pm) for the five Wednesdays in Lent at 7:00 pm beginning February 21.
3) Check out Kate’s blog, you might actually enjoy her writing style.
4) And finally, bring your faith with you and be ready to further your journey of inviting God to walk with you through this challenging world as it is.
I am so excited to walk this walk with you. Here is a great motto for living in faith: Hard times are best endured together.
On Saturday September 23rd more than 25 Good Sam members, 30+ Peace Waldorf members, and almost 20 St Nicholas members enjoyed the wonder and fun that happens at Farming 4 Hunger in Hughesville. We picked Sweet Potatoes, listened to JRP music, talked, visited and enjoy some time of personal sharing from two of the work release program participants at the Farm. It was a grand time and the saying continues to be true, “all are fed on the Farm.” Thanks to Christy H, Becky D. and Erika D who coordinated the effort for the three Lutheran Congregations present. We were also joined by 3 or 4 other community youth groups and one American Heritage activity group to round out the numbers and the fun. God truly showed up and blessed all who were present.