State of the Church 2015

1614028_759846447368055_842981445_oFriends,

One of the roles of the clerk is to write an annual “State of the Church” message to our meeting. This was a difficult assignment for me to undertake for two reasons. First, I feel like I’ve already been too visible lately: two workshops at Northwest Yearly Meeting, two sermons at Silverton Friends, a couple all-church emails, a long business meeting, etc.

Second, as a writer, I struggle with the idea that I might be repeating myself. Because truth is, the things I most want to say to you have become like a mantra for me lately—covenant, new family, conversations, and love above all. You’ve heard these words from me before. And yet they do describe well the hard work we’ve been doing as a church.

What’s ahead? Probably more of the same. That’s part of the daily-ness of apprenticing ourselves to Jesus. The result, as I said in a different context a couple weeks ago, is that our church is growing into a community characterized by both gracious space and spacious grace. It’s pretty special to watch it unfold in “real time.”

This fall, Sally Enns and I will ask for an extra measure of your grace as we launch a controversial but necessary new Adult Education class.  Each Sunday morning, the two of us will be co-facilitating a discussion on “the Church, the Bible, and the LGBTQ community.” (This is a smaller, slower version of a monthly book club I am curating with the pastor of Oak Street Church, with participants from throughout the region.) Together, we will read and discuss seven books over the course of nine months. All seven books are written by evangelicals who love Jesus and take Scripture seriously, but they often come to very different conclusions.

August’s business meeting about the “release” of West Hills Friends Church from the NWYM kick-started a conversation about human sexuality that our local meeting has heretofore avoided. Rather than relegating that conversation to the shadows—to gossip and speculation, to hurt, silence, and neglect—we think it’s better to bring it into the light.

The purpose of the class is not to convince anyone to take a particular position on this controversial topic. The reading list is painstakingly balanced. Rather, the purpose of the class is to make us better able to live into Jesus’s great commands: to love God and love our neighbors. We also hope the class will knit us closer together as a church despite our differences. Christians believe that to follow Jesus is to be enfolded into a community that stretches across cultures, across old enmities, and throughout time. The history of American evangelicalism even hints that when people find a way to live in Christ-centered unity across differences, revival comes.

Spring is the season most commonly associated with rebirth. But after a summer of heat and drought and fire, I’m really looking forward to this autumn. School starts and temperatures cool. We scan the horizon (and the weather forecast) for much-needed rain. I believe this is a season of growth and renewal for Silverton Friends Church as well. I’m filled with hope.

Sincerely,

John Pattison

Clerk of the Meeting

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