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All Church Retreat

I am in a bit of a quandary. Several weeks ago I had decided that the newsletter article for the week of September 24 should be about giving. After all, we have just launched our annual giving effort, and many of you have already received your pledge cards in the mail. We have all begun thinking and praying about what God is calling us to give to support the ministry and missions of Christ UMC.

But after the amazing experience I had at Beersheba Springs on the All-Church Retreat this weekend, I find myself wanting to write about that instead. For those of you who were not able to attend the retreat, we missed you. I hear you had a powerful Sunday morning at 508 Franklin Road, and I’m glad to know that the spirit of Christ can be powerfully present with Christ UMC in several places at once.

As one who was up on the mountain, though, I have to say that it was a beautiful time. It was literally beautiful, with the sunshine and the trees and the mountains all around us. But it was also beautiful in other ways. Usually, we spend the Saturday morning of the retreat separated into children, youth and adults, with each age group having different programming for spiritual growth. This year, though, we did things differently. We were all together. We divided up into groups made up of all ages, and we went to different “prayer stations” around the camp, practicing different ways of praying together. We sang, we pondered psalms, we walked the labyrinth, we collected leaves and rocks, we gazed at pictures. And then we came back together to talk about our experiences. The children talked just as freely as the adults, and we learned from each other.

It was wonderful to see other youth and adults walking with my children and watching over them. It makes me happy to know that my children, because of this church, will have other adults that they can go to for guidance and wisdom and love. It makes me happy to know that I have relationships with people of all ages who can offer me guidance and wisdom and love. I came down the mountain more convinced than ever that we are about relationships. We are a community of love. We are a family.

God has designed us human beings to be in relationship. We cannot walk the walk of faith alone. We’re not meant to. (More on that this Sunday, as we wrap up our series on James.) We need people to pray with us and for us. We need to be held accountable. We need to be loved and accepted and forgiven. We need each other in order to do God’s work in the world. We are the body of Christ.

Now that I think about it, this article really is about giving. If we are part of a community, if we are part of a family, if we are a member of the body, then we are called to do our part. Each person has something to offer. Each person has gifts that God wants to use. Each of us can give something. What we are all discerning in these days is how God wants to use us and what we have to build up the body of Christ and spread the love of Christ in the world.

So, family, I wanted to remind you about our upcoming “family meeting” in the sanctuary at 9:45 on Sunday the 30th. As a family, we all need to know how things are going in the household. We need to sit down together and talk about our budget, our resources and our plans for the future. This Town Hall Meeting, as we call it, will be an opportunity for all of us to be informed about our budget and where we’re headed. We’ll talk, ask questions, offer feedback and pray together for God to inspire us and to move us to greater generosity, deeper relationships and broader ministry in the world. Hope to see you there!