When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. – Acts 2:1-4 (CEB)
I love my congregation, but I’m also proud of them. Would it be OK if I brag a little bit?
When I first joined Heritage in their life together, I asked people about when they felt most energetic and excited about church. When did they most feel like the Church? One common theme was raising our children. But that season is past us now.
The event that came up most often was youth in worship, particularly the “Water Service” where the youth led worship at our church and another to raise awareness and funds for a water project in Ribe, Kenya. People loved the creative worship service and the opportunity to make a greater impact in the world.
“But, of course,” they said, “we can’t do that now. All our children our gone.”
To which I responded, “Why can’t we do it?”
We decided we can.
In the midst of selling our building and moving, we started following Jesus out of the building to participate in what God was doing around us. For the last three years, Heritage has taken our worship on the road to share our love and gifts of worship as we also introduce one of our mission partners to other congregations.
On three Sundays each in 2016 and 2017, our congregation led the “Water Service” at other congregations. We raised $5,500, of which $4,000 was matched by another congregation, for the Ribe water project. Our small congregation that averages 30 in worship (and an average age of well over 60) did this!
Since the project in Ribe was completed, we transitioned to a new mission partner in 2018: Ezekiel Community Development Corporation. This amazing organization trains and employs under-employed people including the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated to rehab homes in Milwaukee’s central city. These homes are then sold near cost to first time home buyers. This year we have led the “Shelter Service” at four congregations raising just over $3,000 (plus matching gifts of $10,000).
It’s hard to communicate the joy that our travelling worship has brought to our congregation (and hopefully those we lead in worship). The hours of dedication in creating these services, rehearsing, setting up, tearing down, and leading worship is amazing. Almost every adult in the congregation has been involved in at least one service, while a core group of 16-20 have been in all of them. Plus there are a handful of folks who stay behind to facilitate worship for the guest preacher and musician at Tudor Oaks (they’re part of our family, so we make sure worship still happens there when we’re on the road).
What was once a lament – our children have grown, we are too small, we can’t make a difference in our community, we wish there were more people in worship so we could share our gifts – has become an offering of joy, excitement, anticipation, and wonder at what God is doing through us.
It was appropriate that Sunday saw us not in our rented room at Tudor Oaks but out at another congregation proclaiming the Gospel and inviting others to participate in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven a little closer in Milwaukee. Pentecost marked the two year anniversary of Heritage “living” at Tudor Oaks Senior Living Community.
I know God continues to speak, Jesus’ love is still incarnate in the world, and the Holy Spirit is breathing a fresh wind throughout the Church. I experienced all of this Sunday with a joyful and thankful heart.
I was recently at a meeting with another congregation, and when I said I was pastor to Heritage they said, “I thought they closed.”
“No. We just moved.”
Over the last three years, we haven’t gotten larger – and we’ve certainly gotten older – but, boy, are we alive. Tonight, we lead worship at our quarterly Presbytery meeting. While we are excited to introduce Ezekiel to all the churches in the Presbytery, I am excited to share my congregation with them. They are living proof that when the Church decides she can, she will. Thanks be to God.
When the Church decides she can, she will. Click To Tweet