A Retreat in Small Bites – Learning

In this third part of our virtual retreat, let’s review the model of faith we have constructed. Faith consists of our relationship with God through worship, service, and learning.

If we are to engage in learning together, what would we like to learn more about?  And when would we like to do this?

We know we are all busy. The last time we scheduled a learning program, it was during Hibernation, and we settled on Sundays at 11 am, and the gathering included a meal. If we want to have learning as a continuing part of our faith journey together, we need to give it more than 6 weeks during Hibernation. So…we agreed that the 5th Sundays of the month, as they occur, would be a great time to try something different.

We started a list of topics which interest us. This list is a beginning, and we will add and refine it as we go. One topic might generate interest in another. So, this is a start:

  • Diversity – speakers from other faith traditions
  • History – of the Bible, of the Church, of this Church, the Historical Jesus
  • How doubt is a strength of faith, more useful than creeds
  • Nuts and Bolts of Squaw Valley Chapel:  how do we keep things going? Where are the switches and who cuts the grass?
  • Early Church to now – how did we become who we are, in broad strokes?  How does the Catholic Church relate to us?  How is the Orthodox Church different? Where do traditions like Friends (Quakers) and Puritans fit in?
  • How were early festivals and sacred traditions folded into the early church?  Why is Christmas on December 25, for example?
  • Sharing our church experiences –We have a lot of traditions embodied in our congregation; what is our personal faith journey?  When we go on Hibernation or vacation and visit other churches, what do we learn?  What do they offer that we could adopt?
  • Spiritual Practices – what are Spiritual Practices?  How do they enrich our faith experience?  From practicing the Lectio Divina to walking a Labyrinth, what might we explore?

A Retreat in Small Bites: Service

Service Windowpane

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

City Church Tallahassee discovered that the most effective things a church can do for the community are not big events or ‘service days;’ rather, they are relationships that take time to establish and commitment over a long term to flourish.

Encouraging members to join life in the city, village or town where things are happening is where they can most effectively invest long term in areas of need that fit members’ passions. This meets a goal of ‘decentralizing’ the church, and takes the ministry to the people, instead of expecting the people to come to the church.

According to City Church, and those who work on church vitality, a healthy church is not where members ask, “What can we do for the community?” because they are already on mission in the community. People who call City Church their home are serving frequently. The relational trust this service builds leads to gospel conversations.

We at Squaw Valley Chapel, as many other churches, may be uncomfortable with the word ‘evangelism,’ the same way we may not be comfortable with the word ‘mission.’ But what do we really mean when we use these terms? We are talking about the work we are inspired to do in the community, with our neighbors and friends, because we want to share the love we know comes from God. We love, because God loved us first.

And when we serve, we serve the living, Still-Speaking God as we serve ‘the least of these.’

How do we at the Chapel serve? We serve…

  • As Individuals who serve the Community
  • As Individuals who serve the Church
  • As the Group of Us who together serve the Community
  • As the Group of Us who serve the Church

A copy of the document is available here.

A Retreat in Small Bites

I’d love for us to all go off for a few days for a visioning retreat to discuss and plan our future here at SVC.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem very feasible, so I’d like us to celebrate the season of Pentecost – when we celebrate the Church – by looking forward rather than backward.  To begin, I invite you to complete the following for yourself: Faith is…..

We covered 3 topics in our exploration of Faith. Here are the results of our exploration:

We started with worship.  We talked about what we like…what we might do differently…how it impacts our lives…and how it transforms our faith. 

For Community Outreach, we explored the different ways we serve, both individually, and as a congregation.

For Learning, first we agreed that we could use our 5th Sundays to do something different; to explore areas we didn’t usually have the time to cover. We listed topics we would like to explore on our 5th Sundays.

Any other ideas are welcome and my hope is that this will be a continuing positive and growthful time for us all!

A Retreat in Small Bites: Worship

From Dr. Robert Webber, founder of the Institute for Worship Studies:

….worship stands at the center of the church’s life and mission. It’s the summit toward which the church moves and the source from which all of its ministries flow. It’s the most important action the church is about. Worship informs the church’s teaching, gives shape to it’s evangelistic mission to the world, and compels the church toward social action. Worship is the context in which the true fellowship of Christ’s body is realized and where those who participate can find real healing. The single most important thing a church can do is worship. A vibrant worship life will glorify God, edify the faithful, and engage the seeker.

To explore the dimensions of our present worship experience and engage in imagining our future worship experience, Pastor James introduced us to a matrix of spiritual experiences, modified from the concept of Jenis Spiritualis, also called the Circle of Sensibility; Urban Holmes: 1980.

In this model, the horizontal axis represents a continuum from God as Spirit (Mystery) to God as Revealed (Imagining). Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise, is an example of a hymn that is more on the Spirit/Mystery end, and What a Friend We Have in Jesus, a hymn on the Revealed/Imagining end.

The vertical axis represents the continuum from a Thinking/Intellectual experience to a Heartfelt/Feeling experience. Representative hymns on this continum would be Joy to the World, for the Thinking end, and Silent Night, Holy Night on the Heartfelt/Feeling end.

Pastor James asked the question, Where is your experience of worship in this church located? Where do you think we sit on each of these axis?’

Covering them one at a time, we described the current state of worship as shown by the dotted blue lines on the chart. Then we described where we would like our worship to be. described by the green lines. The result is roughly a balanced circle, encompassing all 4 dimensions in an equal and generous amount, without going to an extreme on any measure.

Pastor James then added a third dimension, described in black on the lower left of the diagram. This continuum was from no participation, or agency, to constant participation by our worship attendees. Examples of each: low agency would be treating worship as a performance, an opportunity to be spoon fed. High participation/agency would be illustrated by a worship experience that had many stations and different opportunities to co-create a worship experience. One example from the history of the Chapel was with a former pastor who included congregant dancing and movement as an integral part of the service.

The discussion included rich, thoughtful contributions on visioning worship in the future. It helped us be aware of how we arrive at worship as individuals, and that our emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs determine where we are on the graph when we enter, and how worship transforms us as we are together, so we leave enriched in our life and faith. There was also a recognition of the ‘native’ quadrant we inhabit (informed by social norms and personal preferences), and how participation in worship that draws on the other three is both challenging and satisfying. We recognized the wisdom of having our ‘easy preferences’ and the comfort of our ‘native quadrant’, challenged by experiences in the others.