Dearest Hope Family,
Over my nearly 20 years of ordained ministry, a common refrain of lament and a sincere plea for help occasionally come through my inbox or the elders and I hear about after the fact: “I just never felt connected to Hope and decided to look someplace else . . .” Or, “I want to feel connected to Hope – but I don’t know how . . .” These are real concerns. They are hard to hear. And, even as a pastor, I struggle at times to feel connected to the life of the church.
Certainly there are complicating factors. Church can feel like a big tent and we can lack clarity about moving from the fringe to the center. The pandemic amplifies our nagging sense of disconnection, and the new logistics of spreading out and masking don’t make things any easier. The belief that there is an “inner circle” that really is reserved for a select few is one of the evil one’s greatest tools to undermine connection and community. Our church has experienced significant growth over the years and it can be hard for the “old guard” to know how to enfold folks into existing relationships and rhythms. And, most insidious, we are all susceptible to the consumer driven church culture that sells us the dream that better, slicker offerings are available some place else and the struggle to connect some place else will evaporate once we arrive.
I want to be as direct and clear as possible: our driving desire and burden and goal is that every person at Hope will “receive and thrive in the embrace of the Father” and that every person at Hope will “experience with us true hope for real life”. It’s our vision for the church. It’s our mission for the church. There truly is a place for you at Hope Church.
This week marks a significant transition point for the “schedule” of Hope Church. A volley of announcements will come through your inbox, be placarded on the screens at church, be spoken from the pulpit, and extended as more personal invitations, too.
These are not programs engineered to sustain the ministry of Hope church so that we can boast about numbers and involvement. We are not aiming at a flurry of activity. Rather, these are the ministry of Hope Church. And as such we humbly and hopefully, expectantly and sincerely, offer them to our church as avenues of connection, on-ramps to community, invitations to grow in grace and actively stand against the inertia of the pandemic.
While we are intent and diligent to weave a safety net through which we hope no one slips, while we long to personally connect with and ensure the connection of every person who enters the doors of our community, we also humbly submit that community is a two-way street. Step though some of those doors (even when, especially when, it requires courage and risk). Show up for the gatherings and offerings (even when, especially when, you feel awkward). If you are having a hard time stepping in, showing up, or getting unstuck, call me or any of the elders. We would be honored to step with you, enter with you, engage the inertia with you, and help forge the connection we all long for, need, and pray for.
The final nudge is that we often most significantly connect through serving shoulder-to-shoulder. Having needs met and active participation are certainly ways to connect. Taking ownership and serving are, perhaps, even more connective, and we never can have too many folks rolling up sleeves for kingdom ministry at Hope.
I look forward to connecting with you all this Sunday as we come together as God’s people for God’s purposes!
Grace and peace,