I wish you all could have been at UCC as we celebrated Youth Sunday this week. This worship service is one of my favorites of the year. The youth lead every aspect of worship — prayer, readings, communion, preaching. It is like a balm to the soul of those who are wondering whether there is a future for the church — to see these young people who have embraced their faith. As is tradition, a graduating senior [or sometimes, seniors] from the youth group brings the sermon on Youth Sunday. Meg, one of UCC’s youth, preached this week. (Her sermon is now available online)
In her sermon, she told stories about growing up at UCC from her time as a baby — stories of running up and down the aisle to and from children’s sermons, of sitting in the balcony with other youth when she was deemed “old enough” to do so, and of sharing communion with the youth group. She didn’t preach a sermon of easy answers — she asked questions and acknowledged that she didn’t have the answers. But she reflected on how the church had shaped her, as it was a community for asking questions, searching for answers, raising children, and serving others.
A week ago, we started a series of church-wide discernment conversations during the Sunday School hour. In looking at different scenarios involving the use of our church properties, we were invited to reflect upon the purpose of the church, and how to best use our properties to fulfill that purpose. Meg’s words in her sermon, and the things she cited as being what UCC had meant to her — asking questions, searching for answers, raising children, serving others — these things keep coming up in my conversations with individual church members as well. I hope that you are spending time reflecting upon these church-wide conversations, praying for the Spirit to guide us as we have further discussions, and talking with other members — especially those with whom you might not always agree — about what UBC means to you, and what the future holds for us.
Our conversations continue this Sunday. We will be starting earlier — 9 a.m. — and have guests with us from our partner congregations UCC and Congregational Church. We will be discussing other ways that we can partner for ministry with those congregations. UBC has engaged in partnerships with other groups for years, in various projects — Habitat for Humanity, Hands on Housing, Interfaith Hospitality Network, and of course the programs that continue today — Micah 6, our combined youth and college ministries, our occasional choral collaborations. We will discuss whether we can work together even more in the future. Breakfast will be served. I know that we are all busy, but I hope that you will make every effort to attend and be part of these conversations. The future of UBC is in our hands, and each voice is important.
This week, after the sudden death of Christian author Rachel Held Evans, I’ve been re-reading her book, Searching for Sunday. In it, she describes leaving the evangelical tradition of her childhood and her search for a new faith home, which she ultimately found in the Episcopal Church. She writes about the idea that the church is dying. One passage really resonated with me, and I want to share it for your reflection. “As the shape of Christianity changes and our churches adapt to a new world, we have a choice: we can drive our hearses around bemoaning every augur of death, or we can trust that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead is busy making something new.” Join us in conversation as we seek to find the ways to adapt to a new world, and as we trust God to make something new at UBC.
Discernment Committee Member