October 2020 Tidings

Pastor’s Pen

Words for the road

And so, our time together at Mt. Carmel is soon drawing to a close. I have been your pastor for four years and a few months and it’s hard to believe that much time has already gone by. What a journey! The best way to understand our time together, I think, is best captured in the word “anticipation.” There has been from the start of my time at Mt. Carmel, a palpable sense of anticipation on the part of you all about what comes next. This anticipation has largely been born out of the realization that over the years, Mt. Carmel has gotten smaller and that that can’t continue. We need to turn this around! How do we get back on track?

Perhaps anticipation can be divided into two categories: first, anticipating something about which you have a pretty solid image in your mind. And second, anticipating something that you can’t see yet but believe is around the corner. For the first category, such anticipation often involves a fierce desire to rekindle the way things once were, and so there are many powerful images of past events, groups and programs that were meaningful. For those who have envisioned Mt. Carmel’s revival in the first way, there may have been some disappointment with me, as I have suggested all along that God will create something new for Mt. Carmel’s next chapter. Of course, it will mean building on the rich legacy at Mt. Carmel and keeping the parts of our past that we need to keep, but I don’t believe that it means reviving the way things once were.

Rather, I firmly believe that God is creating a new expression of Mt. Carmel for a new time, and that way must be discovered on the ongoing journey of faith and mission. It will be discovered by using the gifts that God has already given to this faith community, building on the story that has already been unfolding for nearly a hundred years, and tapping into the spiritual energies among you!

My parting encouragement to you is to go deeper with all three of these three: gifts, story and energies. I believe God has a wonderful future for Mt. Carmel that will grow out of embracing these three treasures!

For instance, when 20 or so of you participated in the GPS course, it was so much fun to see all of you gradually become more and more energized as you explored and discussed how you were gifted and what that means for you lives and for this faith community. That work is far from done, but I sincerely hope that each member of Mt. Carmel will come to firmly believe that God has gifted you for multiple callings. And why not? You are, in fact, the church. You don’t merely go to church—you are the church! So, explore your gifts! Those are vital clues about what is up to in you, and at Mt. Carmel.

And Mt. Carmel’s story. God started this mission outpost called Mt. Carmel in 1926 and for a reason: to reach this neighborhood with the good news of Jesus Christ and minister to their needs. A good way to learn about where God will lead you all in the future is to study the past, to really grab hold of our collective story and ask, “What is Mt. Carmel’s sweet spot? When does it seem like God is really present? What does that look like?” God has a certain way of working through Mt. Carmel and to identify that is to identify a clue to the future. Keep building on what you already are and let God adapt it to a new time!

And lastly, spiritual energies. I know there has been angst of late about Mt. Carmel’s identity. Who are we? Where are we going? Nothing will tell you that more than by paying attention to where there is energy in the congregation and then fanning the flames of that energy to create serious heat! Why? Because that energy tells you where the Holy Spirit is likely at work, seeking to draw you forward.

It has been so encouraging to me to see more than a little passion these past few months around helping our neighbors in a time of crisis. From food distribution efforts, to food drop weekends at church, to Sheridan Story, there is conviction here. The Holy Spirit is calling!

There is also quite a bit of energy around racial justice. After the George Floyd murder, we’ve discovered that a sizable and devoted group committed themselves to read the book, “The New Jim Crow,” about systemic racism. This is something to build on because God is at work here!

One of the things the Insight interviews established is how many of you really want to connect more on a personal basis with our neighbors. There is a hunger to be equipped for such efforts. Again, God is up to something here.

The last energy cluster I’ll mention is the desire to build more intergenerational community at Mt. Carmel. That’s natural. It’s who we are!  A whole bunch of folks 55 and older and then a growing presence of young families. We’ve got to bridge these two generations better than we are, and yet, we are already one family. The Mt. Carmel family.

I will be so curious and filled with anticipation to hear how things are with you all in the months and years ahead! I encourage you to be open to what God is doing in and among you. Let God bring forth your gifts, your story, your energies!

God’s Peace always,
Pastor John


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