South Acton Congregational Church

Pastor’s Notes

In the beginning (June 2017)

God created the earth. We will be wrestling with what it means to be made in the image of God this June. What we understand about ourselves influences what we believe about God.

What we understand about the created world influences what we believe about God. Did God create mosquitos on purpose, or by mistake? The evolution of species that don’t seem to do much “good” to the world challenge our understanding of God. In a larger context, the evolution of people who are willing to harm others can challenge our understanding of God. What part of us is made in God’s image? Are there parts of us that are not God-like? Is there a way for us to connect to that God-image within us? Is there a way for us to understand God-ness in a deeper way?

For Christians, we have a model of God-ness in Jesus. He is called “son of God” which implies something about his divinity, but he is also called “son of man” which implies something about his human-ness. Interestingly, Jesus himself says that we can become “born anew” as “children of God”. That is, at least to my reading, if he is “son of God” and I am “child of God” then surely we are siblings?

But wait, Jesus seems to be so much more than I am. Jesus seems to be a model, but a model to behavior I cannot actually attain. Thus the theologian Walter Wink suggests that Jesus is “the ultimate human being”. He is more human than any human has ever been in living out our “created in the image of Godness”.

If that’s getting too philosophical for you, I suggest another question for this June–what would you do if you thought that what you were doing–all the time–was being God in the world? Would you behave differently? How? Lets spend some time this month grappling with our God-ness.

 

Community of Belonging (May 2017)

Hopefully we have cleaned up the last of the rummage sale, the kids are starting the last of the units before summer break, the snow is gone from under the lily window, our minds have turned to cleaning up the yard and the building, and to Christ who has Risen the Easter Season.

If you’ve ever wondered when to use Jesus and when to use Christ, generally scholars use Jesus to talk about the man who lived among us, and Christ to refer to the man after the resurrection. It’s not completely logical, Christ is Greek for the Hebrew messiah, both of which mean “the anointed one”. And the Hebrew predictions of a messiah were mostly predictions of a human being living here on earth, anointed in the way King David was anointed–chosen by God to lead.

We’ll be exploring the way the early church struggled to figure out what Jesus, and the risen Christ, meant for how they act in the world. In the book of Acts we’ll see that most of the questions were not “how do we understand resurrection,” but rather, “what do we do and who do we be to follow Jesus”. Diana Butler Bass has introduced the idea that today is more like the first century than it is like the renaissance. In the renaissance, European civilization was turning toward the mind having priority in daily life. Science and Mathematics took leaps in development, but at the same time the first roots of fundamentalist religion grew.

You may be surprised to find fundamentalism focused on the mind–since some fundamentalists are resistant to some scientific developments– but it suggests that we can know exactly what God wants by looking at the data. And it suggests that the data is perfect, that it came from God. The data is the bible. Fundamentalism starts with Believing. If you believe the right things you will do the right things and if you do the right things you can belong to our community.

But in the early church, as described in Acts, there is little discussion of what to believe. Of course they didn’t have the new testament, but more importantly, their focus was not on asking “who is the Christ” but on being “the body of Christ”. In Acts, the first question is “how can I belong” to this new community.

Diana Butler Bass suggests that the new church being developed today also starts with the question of belonging. People come to church seeking a sense that they belong. Once they belong, they begin to behave in the ways that build up the community. Then the people who belong get together sometimes to ask what they believe. At that point it’s a discussion, not a lesson, because everyone is committed to us all belonging to one another. T

he question of precisely what we believe is simply not the most important question. So as we explore the early church this May, I hope you will think about what it means to be a community of belonging. How do we invite other people to belong to us? How do we communicate that others are welcome to belong with us? What does it mean to *be* the body of Christ, rather than to figure out exactly what the body of Christ is? How can we share Alleluia with the world?

Spring! Easter! Daylight! (April 2017 Markings)

April showers bring May flowers, but for me mostly April brings confidence that it won’t always be dark out. We’ll have our last experimental worship on April 2. Palm Sunday is April 9 with Jesus’ joyous entry and the story of his last week and death. It’ll be my first time to do a Tenebrae service at 7:30pm Thursday, April 13. That’s a different time from the mailer you received.

And then Easter!! What is Easter for you? Do you still get a bonnet or new shoes? A spring outfit? Our Sunday School makes Easter Basket for kids in need. My closest family members will be celebrating Passover, so our Easter celebration will be without breads of any sort. I’ve decorated a few Ukrainian Eggs. I’ll probably have already put away my skis. I’ll whine about getting up for 6am worship.

Easter season connects with spring, and its tempting to make comparisons to new life, new energy, new light in the world. One thing to remember about resurrection is that it is NOT about the cycle of life. Resurrection was actually the defeat of the cycle of life. Its not like a caterpillar, which has a normal path of rebirth as a butterfly. Its not like a tulip or lily bulb, which, although it appears dead, has a normal path of dormancy and then blooming.

Resurrection is something totally new, something unexpected, something that breaks away from what should have happened. The immediate consequence of Jesus’s resurrection was the creation of the church. The disciples saw the risen Christ, and instead of giving up on his message of love overcoming evil and his message of a turned-over world order, they decided to make the Kingdom of God real.

Against all odds they decided to eat with people who were not like them, to share with people who were not cool to hang out with, they decided to live as if there is more than enough in the world. More than enough food, more than enough compassion, more love than there is evil. It was a totally new way to live.

What is something that would be totally new for you? What is something that would be totally new for SACC? Can we make space for the unexpected? Can we make space for the Holy Spirit? For Christ? For God?

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

 

I’m giving up Lint for Lent! (March 2017 Markings)

Did some of you grow up with the tradition of giving something up for Lent? Coffee or chocolate or alcohol or sugar or swearing, perhaps?

When I was young lent was “a Catholic thing” but by the time I was in my twenties most protestants were taking part. I always joked that I was giving up liver for lent. Or washing dishes. Or cleaning the lint filter in the dryer. And then afterward there was a move that Lent was a time to take on something positive—a new habit to pray every evening, or to read the bible, or to do random acts of kindness.

At my episcopal seminary there was always a big emphasis on not saying “alleluia” during lent. Technically lent is forty days, not counting Sundays. (Sunday is never Lent because it is always resurrection day.) We start with Ash Wednesday (worship at Boxboro at 7pm on March 1) and then spend 40 days in quiet reflection.

Forty is popular in the bible— Noah’s flood was forty days, Moses and the Israelites were in the wilderness forty years, and Jesus was in the desert for forty days right before he started his ministry. For SACC Lent this year will be an interesting time of waiting. It’s quite likely our search team will have our profile done just as we finish up Lent. We’ll be experimenting with a new mindfulness worship practice from March 5 to April 2.

This year also the timing of Lent is such that we’ll be eagerly waiting for spring. What do you do when you have to wait? What makes you less impatient? Would it work to give something up? Would it help to take on a new discipline?

Let me know what Lent means for you, and what you think Lent means for

Planning for Lent (February 2017 Markings)

Lent is forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. If you count them, you’ll see that’s too many days—technically Sundays aren’t part of lent. (I was very good at remembering this detail when we gave up things for lent as a child.)

Forty days comes from the years Moses wandered in the wilderness, and the days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. It’s a reflective time. In our “Tussling with Jesus” class we will be reflecting on who Jesus is, and at least one week we’ll tussle with what it means that Jesus “saves” us. From what? How? We’ll tussle on that together.

Many churches have a weekly Lenten study, let me know if you’d like one and I’ll set it up. Because of the strength of our mindfulness program, the Deacons and the Music/Worship Planning team have been thinking about experimenting with “mindful” worship for Lent—March 5 to April 2.

This might mean that the call to worship might be some silent time. I think I will do the children’s moments on the different types of prayer. We might do a lectio divina on the scripture. Sermons could include some time for reflection and silence. Perhaps for prayers of the people we would call them out and respond with singing. Communion might include some silent reflection. The music might be simpler, repetitive, and reflective.

We’ve also thought about focusing on beauty during this season. One Sunday we could focus on the image of Jesus as a shepherd and enjoy the stained glass window. We’d love other artwork—do you have quilts, weavings, pictures you’d like to share? Ed will bring one of his pictures one week. All of this will be done with lots of explanation, the times of the silence won’t be too long, and we’ll give ideas of what to *do* during the silence.

The goal is to be welcoming of this new idea. The worship planning meeting for Lent is on February 19th. Come to the meeting if you have opinions, or let one of us know if you’d like input. Palm Sunday and Easter will return to our usual format.

 

Happy New Year!! (January 2017 Markings)

Here we are at the start of a new secular year. The new year in Christianity actually starts with the first Sunday in Advent, so this new year is already five weeks old. In Judaism the new year is Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the sixth day of Creation, when God created humans. The Jewish and Islamic New Years were in October this year. Personally I’ve always wondered why we don’t think of the new year in the spring, when life seems new?

Of course there are many things new at SACC right now. A new search team, new worship/music team, imagining new ways to manage communication and outreach, new energy at the Center, new shared ministries with Boxboro. We have a new government in place, and new semesters starting in school, and new aches and pains for the new year. No wonder sometimes our response to the new year is to take a long nap!!

We read from the book of Revelation at Christmas. Here it is from the Message (a new bible translation). I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making home with men and women! They’re God’s people, The LORD is their God. God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Rev. 21:3-5.

What would it mean to imagine that God has moved into your neighborhood? Are there things you would do differently if you thought God lived down the street? I’m not thinking of worrying about whether God will judge your actions or thoughts—what if God was waiting to take you out for coffee and had some time to chat? What if God was longing to give you a hug?

Of course some of me would love a chance to give God a piece of my mind. There is so much God has not fixed in the world, so much loss, so much loneliness, so much pain. The God I grew up with—the one who was supposed to fix everything—that God would not be fun to have coffee with. Honestly that God is a failure in my book.

But of course it was that image of God-as-fixit-guy that failed, not the God that Jesus points us to. The God that Jesus points to is a God that is in every person who needs food, drink, housing, clothing, healing, and release from prison. The God that Jesus points to is a God that loves us the way we are. The God that Jesus points to wipes tears from our eyes and holds us close. And that God is making everything new.

In this new year, imagine that God is making home with us. Invite God in for a chat. Happy New Year.

 

Advent is a Time of Waiting (December 2016 Markings)

While it is common in our present culture to spend the next few weeks waiting for gift-giving, and for many Christians it is a time of waiting to remember “the reason for the season”,  Advent is meant to a season of waiting for the oppressed to go free. While we remember the oppression the Jewish people faced at the time of Jesus’ birth, what is most important during this time is that we remember the oppression that still exists in the world around us.

The reason we are waiting for Jesus to come again is not because we need to wait for gifts, but that we need to wait for love to win against oppression. Advent is hard. The days get shorter and shorter, the days get colder and colder, our hearts feel further and further from hope.

The song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel ” expresses the darkness: mourning in lonely exile, satan’s tyranny, gloomy clouds of night, path to misery. What do we want? Emmanuel, that is “God with Us”. We want God to be here understanding how hard this time is for us.

For some of us the parallels to our lives are obvious—we want God with Us in a world at war, in our nation divided, in the struggles in our high school, in our church facing so much uncertainty, in our families that are struggling. Advent is not the time to say “it’ll all work out”. Advent is the time we say “this is a dark time”.

It’s tempting to jump to the celebration of Christmas. One of the things we’ve learned in our mindfulness class is that trying to push aside hard things doesn’t actually make it better. Advent is about sitting in the hard time. But as Christians we don’t sit alone. We sit together in the hard time. We sit with each other, and we sit with your neighbors. We share food, worry, laughter, and we remind each other of the hope—the hope that God *is* with us, even as we cry and plead for God to be with us. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to us, shall be with us, shall prevail.

 

Money and Abundance (November Markings)

Many of my friends spend the month of November engaging in various thankfulness exercises. Some post something they are thankful for every day on Facebook. Others do a ten or twenty day ritual around thankfulness. One of my friends ends every evening with a reciting of the POW and the WOW of the day: what hit you too hard, and what was wonderful?

I personally try to be more thankful for what I have, and less worried about what I don’t have. I try to remember that Jesus fed four thousand people with a few loaves of bread. When we think of what we are thankful of at SACC we think of the friends, the person who made a call when we needed it, the prayers of support.

We also are thankful that we’ve been able to take a stand on gun violence, that we are able to drive people to the church, that we have people who volunteer to be deacons and on the board and to usher and to prepare communion and to move our neighbors from one home to the other.

I hope that we are also thankful for the money that we give to the church. Money gives us the ability to engage with the economy. With money we can buy heat and a dehumidifier for our basement. With money we can pay for administrative support, a musician, and a pastor. It takes money to care for our building, to provide curriculum for our Sunday School, to hire someone for the nursery. Money allows us to support ministries to others, and to create programs that communicate the good news to others. It takes money to keep up the website, and social media, and to advertise what we are doing.

On November 13 we will gather to talk about money. There are lots of taboos about such talk but silence does not create unity, silence creates the sense that there are secrets. Because we are children of God, because we are siblings of one another, it is appropriate to discuss what we have done in the past with the resources we have been given. What are the decisions we have made? How do we feel about those decisions? What was frustrating, unclear, divisive, joyful, grace-filled?

The reason for discussing the past is to inform the future. We can change our values, change our habits, change our style, if we can recognize our values, habits, style. We can decide how we will talk about money. We can talk together about what will we do with the money we have. It is easy for discussions of money to turn into discussions based in fear or anxiety. Perhaps, people may whisper, perhaps we do not have enough.

My own theory of church is that whatever we have—it is enough. I remember the five loaves and six fishes that fed four thousand—plus women and children! But for it to be enough we must decide wisely how to use what we have. And to make wise decisions we must talk to one another and discern what our church is about.

Make your pledge for 2017. Come to the meeting November 13. Pray. Volunteer. Together we will eat bread and fish, and share it with the community.

Thankfulness (October Markings)

Can you believe it is October? Its a time of thanksgiving, a time of reflection, and a time when we have *too much* to do. October is Stewardship time, which makes sense because we need a budget for January, but doesn’t make sense because we have *too much* to do.

Stewardship is the question and the answer to how we use our resources. Are we good stewards of our building? Are we good stewards of our leadership? Are we good stewards of our youth? Are we good stewards of our time, our talents, our money? All of those are stewardship questions.

When we ask “what will you give” the question is about all the ways we give. But of course we are asking in October when we have the rummage sale October 22, and a transition team event October 16, and there is stuff at work and at school and at home.

So some of what we must do during this time is just breathe. We must take Sabbath time in all the ways that we find restful. We must make space to connect to the God that guides us, and the God that is within us, and the God that is in the community. We must pause a bit in the midst of the chaos.

And to do that we say thank you. Thank you to God, thank you to the community, thank you to your family and friends, and thank you to ourselves for getting us here to this day. Thank you to myself for getting myself here this day. There are lots of memes about having 30 days of thankfulness, posting something you are thankful for on Facebook or twitter every day. There is a routine of naming something you are thankful for each night as you go to bed. Some people say thank you each morning when they awake. For some of us, getting away from the chaos is needed to find space to even think about thankfulness.

There are many paths. Take one of them. Say thank you this month.

 

Niche Marketing (September 2016 Markings)

In the marketing world, every product is seeking its niche. The key to good marketing is to know who the product is aimed at, who will want to know about it, who will see it and think, “that’s for me”. The goal is to be as specific as possible about the demographics you are trying to reach.

Note that this is not limiting who can use the product–no one says, we are trying to reach young hip hispanic youth, so old white guys aren’t allowed to buy it. What the niche identifies is how to engage in the marketing. You probably won’t try to reach young hip hispanic youth by advertising in the Wall Street Journal.

Knowing your niche allows an organization to clarify it’s message. It permits an organization to focus its efforts in the most useful way. It guides the message that is communicated to the community. Like the charism, it doesn’t necessarily say we need to stop other things, but it might change where we put our efforts. While we of course welcome everyone, outreach needs to be specific in order to be meaningful.

Who do you think is our niche?

Here are some that I’ve heard:
Young Families
Families with children
Peace Movement Folk
Families with Disabilities
People living with Mental Illness
People looking for spirituality, mindfulness, silence

To evaluate our niche we need to look out for a few things
—is it a niche present in South Acton, Maynard, Boxboro?
—are other churches nearby reaching that audience effectively?
—do we know what our niche would want from a church?
—do we have people willing to engage with these people?
—do we have people who will do outreach to this niche?
—do we enjoy doing programs that meet the needs of this niche?

Our niche starts with who we are already, and where we have energy, but it looks for what are the needs of our community. What does our immediate community need? How can we inform people of how we are meeting that need? What do you think is almost-already our niche? How can we make it more explicit?

Who do you think is our niche?

 

What is our charism?

Religious orders use the word charism to identify the particular grace or strength or gift of a particular order. The Greek *charisma* refers to gifts from God to a human community. Charisma is used today for a person who can attract people to themselves, although originally it meant a talent or gift from God as well.

I’m wondering if we should think about what is our charism? What is the special gift we offer that other places might not offer in the same way that we do?

Often part of interim work is identifying a mission or marketing statement for a church, but honestly SACC’s “Where you are loved and valued just as you are” is just about perfect for that sort of thing. Yet it still doesn’t identify who it is we are trying to reach, or what it is that is our particular strength. It says what will happen if someone comes here, but not why they might want to come.

So I’ve been thinking about our charism. What brings people in? Of course you have been part of this for much longer than I have, so maybe my view is complete. But here is what I have seen since I arrived. Forty-four people not connected to this church came here to try out a mindfulness series, and twenty or more continue to come. One of those people also came to our prayer walking. And a young man found our prayer for peace on the web and just came to “check it out”. Both prayer walking and prayer for peace are events that have attracted people not connected to SACC.

So I’m wondering if spirituality is our charism. I wonder if the thing that might attract people is meditation, mindfulness, silence. Does that feel right to you? Is there some way it needs to be described that better meets your needs? Is this a place where we explore mystery and quiet and peace and a connection to God? What is right, or wrong about this as our charism?

Whatever is our charism, the gift we present to world, will affect whatever else we do. If spirituality and silence and meditation is our charism this will lead to questions about what we are doing in worship, what we want with our music, what we will provide for our youth and your children, and how we will engage in mission. It doesn’t mean stopping things, necessarily, but it might change how we engage.

What do you think? What is our Charism?

Leading at SACC

Lots of people at South Acton Congregational Church are great leaders. I’m actually rather amazed at how much gets done here. Church things get done when people in the church decide to do them. As is typical in a small church, that means most people are doing something!!

Although I’m hearing anxiety about whether we have enough people to do what needs to be done, I also am seeing people come up with new ideas and others stepping up help to make them happen.

Here are the tests I recommend for us. First ask yourself, are you doing what God is calling you to do at SACC? Do you feel satisfaction? Does it use your gits? If yes, alleluia! If no, then you need to figure out how to stop doing it. I know all the arguments—If I do less this job won’t be done as well. If I do less some things won’t get done. If I do less then the church will do less and it will look like we are dying.

Actually it is frantic, unhappy work that marks the first stages of death of a community. When projects are done by one person alone. When there is pleading for someone to take on a task. When activities keep going even though it is not fun to volunteer. When people are doing what they feel they “should” do rather than what they love to do, where they find satisfaction, what they are called by God to do.

Vital small churches apply a second test as well—are there at least three people as part of the leadership team of each project? Jesus says he is there whenever two or more are gathered but I have found in today’s busy world it takes three leaders to assure there are always two people present.

In a hierarchy three people make up the supervisor, the manager, and the worker; in community those roles likely will be less constrained, more collaborative. But three people mean that someone is learning how to be the leader when another leader leaves. It means you can take a week off when you have guests in town. It means you have a team to work with for problem solving, for creative ideas, for support.

Two tests, then, for new ideas and old. Are you doing what you are called to do? And are you doing it with a team? These will help us to find joy in our work for the church. It will help us to have hope for the future of the church. It will help us to share the good news, because it will feel good.

Don’t miss our meeting June 5!

What is church? We will be discussing this in worship for the month of June. Much of that will be about what it means to be a Christian in today’s world, and how we live that out as a church community. We’ve already discussed hope on May 22, and May 29 we introduced the idea that Joy is one of the major functions of Church-Joy within, and sharing Joy with the world.

We won’t be discussing the structure of Church during worship-but it is important! Vital Church is set up structurally so that people can easily engage within our boundaries and out with the world. Inwardly we must figure out how to care for one another, outwardly we must figure out how to serve the community.

June 5 we will be asking both those questions 1) what can we be doing to more fully support each other within SACC? 2) what can we be doing to more fully serve the community? Honestly we aren’t *bad* at either of these things, but to reach vitality we have got to do more.

Internally we came up with ideas to adjust our worship service, our worship space, and to do more small group and large group activities together.

Looking outward we had lots of ideas!! We can help individuals do outreach, we can do outreach as a community, and we can further develop ideas for the Center for Spirituality.
Communication also came up as a large need, both internally and externally. People struggled with how we can know each other better, and how we can let people outside of the community know what we are doing.

Do join us June 5 right after church to be part of this discussion. We need your input, we need your listening ears, we need to be sharing together in developing these ideas. To be Church together we have to *be* together finding the path for our next phase of community.

The transition (May 24, 2016) by Pastor Liz

The whole time, from the time that Katrina left to the time your new pastor starts, is called the transition time. Which is pretty odd, don’t you think? Obviously it was a huge transition from the time you heard that Katrina was leaving until she left. And it will be a huge transition from the time the new pastor starts.

Life is about transition, and the time of church being the stable, unchanging place where you could escape life’s transitions, if it every existed, is gone. And yet we rightly ask for some stability in our lives, even as we want the world, our lives, and our church to change for the better.

Our challenge then is to keep up meaningful worship, weekly prayers and meditations, choir, sunday school, deacons, SACC movers, and all the personal care we with and for each other. We keep up all the things that provide stability to our life together. And yet we watch these same things to look for two things: what can we share with the community around us, and what do we need from our next leader so that we can be connected to the community around us?

We are reminded that Jesus’ life was not one peace but one of action, but also that he took time to pull away from the chaos and pray. Our transition is happening now. We are called to act by being present and part of the transition, and we called to take time for quiet and prayer. Listen for the word of God. Listen for the word of Hope. Listen for the future of SACC.

 

Where is everyone? (May 12, 2016) by Pastor Liz.

There were around 27 people in church on Sunday. Not our greatest numbers I’m sure. After a beloved pastor has left it is easy to get anxious about our numbers. How many at worship? How many at meetings? Are there programs we’ve dropped, programs that aren’t full, programs that we should be starting but there aren’t enough of us so we aren’t?

Small churches are especially good at anxiety. It always feels like a little thing, such as a few people missing, can be understood as a sign. Just like the jokes in cartoons, we may be afraid that we are one of those old guys carrying a doomsday sign that says “the end is near.”

Christianity takes the “end times” seriously, although not in the way that it is popularly expressed. Our eschatology–big word for what we think about the end of the time–is that the Kingdom of God is at hand. That is, its already begun, but not yet fully here, and we should always be prepared for it to arrive. We become prepared by developing our spiritual lives, by caring for our neighbors, and by creating a world where God’s love is present on earth. That is, we work to make the Kingdom of God present here and now, we make it “at hand”.

So where was everyone this week? Well to start, 14 of us were making the Kingdom of God at hand by participating in the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. Nine of us came to build up our spiritual lives, and change the world, by engaging in the Prayer for Peace meditation group on Monday night. Nine people, mostly a different nine, came to the planning session for our Learn Mindfulness group that will begin June 15. I ran into at least three people who were caring for others at SACC, and four came to SACC Tuesday to plan our interim time. The deacons and council are filling their vacancies as we speak. A new yoga group will soon start renting our space on Saturday mornings, and an NA group filled our basement on Tuesday.

We are bustling with energy, developing our spiritual lives, caring for our neighbors, and creating a world where God’s way of love is here on earth. Let us know how we can help you, too, to feel the energy of this sign, not that the end is near, but rather that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

From the Pastor (May 2016 Markings)
Well here we are at a bit more than a month. I know a bit more about you, you know a bit more about me. So far I’m quite happy with what I’ve learned, I hope the same is for you!

So I’ve been thinking about the net in the other side of the boat thing–as we talked about one Sunday, this idea that during transition time we can try new things without fearing we’ll have to do the new way forever. Experimenting. Guessing. Just winging it. Dive into the deep end.

Or not! Transition time is also the time that some people draw back, take a break, sit on the side and watch. Whether you are grieving Katrina leaving or not a big fan of change or you just happen to be really busy right now with ordinary life, the great thing about church is you are allowed to take care of yourself. Please feel permission to be who you are.

Whether you are spending this transition experimenting or observing, your ideas and observations are important to the ongoing work, and being, of SACC. Engage in ways that feed you, and tell us along the way what those things are. Notice where you see the Good News at SACC, and share what you see.

A note about my schedule–I’ve got another trip for my DMin studies May 13-21 (Portland Oregon). I’ll be at the Disciples of Christ Regional Meeting June 10-11 (Rochester, NY). And then this summer–while we will continue to share worship with Boxboro, because of my DMin studies, I’m only taking off two weeks (three Sundays) in August. So even when Cindy Worthington-Berry is preaching I’ll be at church and around to visit with you.  In Christ, Liz.

What’s the Interim Time For??
By The Rev. Elizabeth M. Magill (Liz) (May 2016 Markings)

Many of you have lived with Interim Time at SACC before. For some of you this is a new idea. But what on earth is this time supposed to be? I was asked what I’d do an interim at our interview, the truth is, I haven’t been an interim before.

But I’ve worked at a lot of places, both in the business and non-profit world, and I’ve studied a lot of churches. Here is what I’ve seen at transition time: when a beloved leader leaves, our instinct is to quickly to hire a duplicate. (When a not so beloved leaders leaves, people often look for their opposite.) In both cases a duplicate and an opposite are visions, not realities, and the first hire after leader leaves is quite often a bad match. Insider church language calls that an “unintentional interim”. It’s someone who comes a short time and does not move the work of the church forward.

I spent the first week in April at “The Work of the Leader” which is the first part of interim ministry training. Here is what I learned about how to make our interim time intentional.

The work of the intentional interim is to move the church forward while at the same time helping the congregation to develop a realistic view of what they need. In some congregations that includes some problem solving around issues that may not have been resolved during the previous pastorate. The main goal is to answer the questions: Why are we here, what are we doing, and how will we do that?

Conveniently enough, those are exactly the questions we need to know the answers to in order to write our profile! “Why are we here” gets at who is this group of people, meeting in South Acton, describing ourselves as church? What drew us here, what are the values that underly what we do, how have we lived this out in the past, and what from our past do we want to carry into the future. In interim circles this work is called Heritage–it is the step where we use our past and present to set the grounding for our future.

The question “what are we doing” will follow, as we look to describe in our profile who we are reaching in South Acton. What is our ministry, our mission, our outreach? This is two interim tasks called connections and then mission. Theoretically “how do we do it” will follow from our  answers to the why and what questions, but also will help us describe exactly what type of leader we need next.

Do you have questions or concerns or input into what we are doing for this interim time? Please share them–I’d love to hear. Contact me at pastor@southactoncc.org or give me a call at 508-450-0431.

Interim Ministry (April 12, 2016)

Here we are at the interim time. Interim–the between place. Some of us are still grieving the loss of Katrina, some of us are impatient for the new settled pastor, some of us love the creativity of the transition, many of us are some of all three.

What shall we do in this time? There are many descriptions of interim ministry, but I think for this congregation, at this time, the questions are essentially about how we will describe ourselves on our profile. Who are we? Who are our neighbors? What do we imagine we could be? What is blocking us from getting there? All of these questions help us to describe accurately who we need for our next pastor, but more importantly, they help us communicate to the world how Christ is calling us to minister to the world.

The first step in our interim work is our three circle meetings. The goal is to say what you think, but also to hear what others think, about who we are at SACC. After the three circles our interim team will listen for what are the themes, and we’ll get together before the end of June to share what we’ve found out.

The interim time is a time of flux, of discernment, of change. It is a time to speak up about what you hope for and long for. It is a time where some will take a respite, some will jump in with their eyes closed, some will watch to see if its safe. You have permission to take any of those approaches to the interim time. But do stay in touch so that we can include you in our vision for the future.

Contact me by email at pastor@southactoncc.org, on facebook, or by phone at 508-450-0431. I’ll be in Acton on Sundays and two weekdays each week until the end of June, when I switch to full-time. I’m always glad to hear from you.