Good morning! Did you see what happened yesterday? Spring! It has been on the calendar for weeks now and it has teased us with occasional afternoons of sunshine—followed by ice and snow and cold temps, but yesterday spring seemed to actually arrive.
Every spring I watch for tulips and lungwort to come poking up in my flowerbeds. And that inevitably gets me thinking about John. John was a family friend when I was a child. He and my dad liked to tell stories. They could use up an entire Sunday afternoon exchanging stories. One of John’s stories has stuck with me. I always associate it with spring. This is how John told it.
In 1945 John was serving in the military and he was stationed in Chicago. One day he was in downtown Chicago. I don’t remember the details. He may have been heading home on furlough. He spotted a cab at the curb and jumped in, without really looking to see if it was occupied. He was seated before he realized there were a black man and a young boy in the cab.
The man nodded to him and John apologized. They quickly learned they were headed in the same direction and agreed to share the cab.
They sat in silence, the way strangers often do when they are uneasy. The little boy sitting between them looked at his father and then at John, who was a pale white man of Irish heritage. Back and forth he looked at them, and then he asked his father, “Why did God make some people white and some people brown?”
It was the sort of question that adults don’t speak in words, but they sometimes wonder. A question like that voiced out loud is often followed by a pause, because it is asked in such innocence, and it strikes so deep at our pain and brokenness. “Why” questions are the hardest. Why violence? Why racism? Why hatred? It requires a wise answer. John turned to the boy’s father to see what he would say.
The boy’s father said that God created people of all colors so that when God looked down on the world it would like a garden in the spring, beautiful and full of color.
The boy was satisfied and so was John, so satisfied he told the story more than 20 years later in my family’s living room. I am glad he did.
Welcome to spring. Enjoy the garden.
We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday mornings and we would love to worship with you.
This week at West Des Moines UMC:
Wednesday Night Live tonight! Dinner at 5:30. No cost, but you are invited to give a free will offering. We will use the money this summer to feed school children.
This Sunday we will continue our sermon series “Where are we going?” Rachel Hollingsworth, our ministry intern will be telling us where she thinks we are going. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.
Last Sunday I announced in worship that the church is entering into a time of visioning. I said that we would keep you informed along the way. A summary of what is happening appears below. If you have questions please contact me or one of the team members.
An Update from the Visioning R&D Team
The church now faces lots of opportunities and challenges. The opportunities include Holy Spirit momentum, increased worship numbers, our children and youth, increased use and effectiveness of our technology, and strong competent disciple leaders among our laity and staff.
There are challenges too. We have an ageing building, and, even though it is hard to admit, an ageing congregation. The church owns 8 houses east of the church and these have become a challenge. These were purchased 14 years ago with the plan of expanding the parking lot and the church building. That was the vision at the time. For a variety of reasons, the expansion was never realized. The houses have been rented. Recently the trustees informed the church council that the houses are in need of costly repairs beyond general maintenance.
With all these opportunities and challenges, what should we do? What sort of future do we want? What is God’s dream for this church? Looking forward, how can we grow and serve as disciples?
We have established a Visioning Research and Development Team to gather all the information they can and propose a response to those questions. The members of the team are Lesley Montgomery, Craige Wrenn, Berneda Franson, Becky Daniels, Mike Powers, Gary Norton, Carol Litscher, Mark Willson, Kristen Kouba, Kristin Pawlowski, and Cindy Hickman. They represent a cross-section of involvement and experience in the church. They are all disciples committed to its future.
The team will be led by Sarai Rice. She is the director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council. She is a Presbyterian minister and has worked as a church consultant for the Alban Institute. She brings a wealth of knowledge about church structure and visioning.
The team is committed to meeting every Thursday night for 12 weeks. They will be doing research about our church and church trends. They will be conducting lots of interviews with people in the community. They will be seeking your input. When they have compiled their information and created a proposal, they will present it to the church.
And of course, this is all words, all simply an interesting exercise, until it becomes action, lived out as we follow Jesus. This is a process, a journey. And I think, an exciting adventure.
What is God’s dream for this church? Looking forward, how can we grow and serve as disciples? Please pray for this team, for this effort, and for our church.