As the holidays approach, I always start reflecting on all the things that have changed in the past year. 2017 has brought turbulent times for our country, communities, and culture. That subject is way too big to deal with in a short newsletter article. Let’s just say that we’re all figuring out how to deal with everything, which is another way of saying we’re figuring out how to deal with each other.
I can’t tell you how the world is doing this, but I can share the things we’ve done at Shepherd of the Valley in the midst of a changing world…ways in which we’ve grown together as a community.
We’ve discovered the joy of eating together! In addition to the usual potlucks and youth dinners, we now have a Chili King (Paul Steward) and Queen of Fudge (Jan Philp), both of whom earned their trophies in congregation-wide contests. This summer we’ll have a barbecue festival for the whole neighborhood as well. Maybe you’ll become our next BBQ Master!
Our doors have been open for several neighbors in need. We’ve distributed funds, groceries, gas, rent and utilities help to dozens. Our Christmas Tree of Giving produced almost 100 presents for local families.
We’ve been blessed by people of different backgrounds, orientations, and ages. Our younger generation has shared laughter, music, and a few of them have even led the sermon on Sundays! The same is true of our seniors. We’ve woven all ends of the spectrum together through our Wednesday Family Nights, facilitated by scores of people leading studies and bringing food. (Food is a big deal to us, apparently! But what better way to get to know each other?)
We have learned to be flexible, to take time with the people around us. We care less about attaining some mythical, unreachable standard of perfection. Instead we value who we’re doing things with…and who we’re doing things for.
In all of this, we’ve re-discovered what it means to be a family…not the traditional, impermeable, “We’re inside and you’re out” church family, but a community where none of us stands at the center, where walls matter less than grace, in which we regard everyone as God’s child.
We hope you experience the warmth and Spirit of this blessed night as we gather around the babe in the manger and hear the story of God’s great compassion for us. We want you to know that always, everywhere, love lives among us. It shapes the church and flows out to the community around. There’s no better or greater purpose, especially in the midst of chaotic times.
How will we respond? We will love. We will care. We will walk together. And we are blessed to share this night, and this calling, with you.
God’s blessings, now and always.