In Thursday’s UCC Stillspeaking Daily Devotional, Anthony Robinson observed that sometimes he yearns for Simple Church….not simplistic. Not silly. But simple. Things have been anything but simple here at Federated lately. We are disappointed that Judy Bagley-Bonner has decided not to join our staff as we had planned. Those of us who know and love Judy feel that loss in a personal way. Her decision also prolongs stress within our already stressed Staff. In addition, we are beginning to live into a new governance structure which requires looking at everything anew. All of this embodies change, and change is hard. When we are asked to travel in uncharted territory, we sometimes feel unsure, threatened, our faith is challenged.
M. Scott Peck hit the nail on the head when he began his book, The Road Less Travelled, with the words, “Life is difficult.!” Individuals, as well as churches have difficult times, bumps in the road, stressful events, times when we have trouble coping and feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Our faith tells us God is with us in the midst of these experiences, loving us and supporting us through them. However, when you are struggling through those times, sometimes it’s hard to remember His promises and easy to feel alone and abandoned.
The Stephen Ministry Team here at Federated is designed to address life’s difficult situations. Stephen Ministers are lay men and women who receive 50 hours of in-depth training preparing them to provide care for individuals who are experiencing illness, grief, separation or divorce, depression, loneliness, etc. We do not give advice or make recommendations and everything about our relationships is confidential. If you or someone you know in the community (not necessarily a member of Federated) could benefit from a Stephen Minister, please call me or let the Church Office know. Our purpose is to be present with nonjudgmental, caring support and to bring God’s love into difficult situations. A Stephen Minister is a caregiver, a careful listener, a Christian in action, an unconditional friend, a loving supporter, a wounded healer, a confidential mentor and a lover of life. Who wouldn’t want one of those—or to BE one of those.
We will offer a Training Program for new Stephen Ministers in the fall. If you would like more information or have questions about what is involved, please contact me or call the Church Office. This is a nurturing, expanding, fulfilling ministry.
For me Stephen Ministry has been a vehicle for giving and receiving love.
• I have grown. I have acquired new information. My faith has been nurtured and expanded. I have developed deep and meaningful relationships—both with fellow Stephen Ministers and with those I have been assigned to care for. These relationships have allowed me to experience God’s love.
• I have been provided with the opportunity to extended myself to others. I have provided care to my fellow Stephen Ministers as well as to some in the church family and community who have requested support.
• I have experienced the discipline of love. Regular meetings are expected both with those to whom we are assigned as well as monthly meeting of Stephen Ministry where we continue to learn and grow together.
• The communication and problem solving skills I learned have enhanced my other relationships.
God may be calling you to Simple Church—giving and receiving love.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning said:
Earth’s crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God:
And only he who sees takes off his shoes-
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.
We are called to be more than berry pickers!
Prayer for Worship
Creator God, you have loved us unconditionally from the beginning. As we come to you this morning in prayer, our hearts are filled with awe and gratitude for the abundance of our lives. May we always hold a grateful heart at our center—for your blessings are unending.
Thank you for our life together here at Federated Church, a unique expression of the Body of Christ. Thank you for the many ways our ministry has reached out, transforming lives here, in the broader community, and in the world. We know you have been working through us individually and as a congregation. Please help us to feel your guidance even when we encounter life’s difficult times. Change is hard but we have the assurance of your love. Hold close our staff and lay leaders as they navigate the changes we encounter. Help us to reach out to each other in loving and supportive ways.
Use us, individually and as a Church Family, to encourage and model peace, openness, tolerance, and love in our homes, at work, at Federated, in our nation and the world.
We have been blessed to be a blessing! Show us how to do that—on all levels—one day at a time.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen