Some churches seem to go on hiatus during the summer, but that has not been my experience here at Bethlehem. The whole summer, but especially this past month have been full of so many exciting and wonderful things happening in our community.
I had the great pleasure of participating in my first ever Bethlehem serves and it was truly inspiring to watch. The first thing that struck me was how cool it was getting to see members who usually go to different church services, worshipping and serving together. It reminds us that even though our preferred worship times may be different, we are still one congregation, and on an even grander level, we are all part of the one body of Christ here on earth. During communion, we filled every inch of free real-estate around the perimeter of the sanctuary. One circle of community and joy as we celebrated the sacrament of holy communion together. The project I helped with was the car wash station in the church parking lot and we had a blast. Kids and adults working together, laughing and having fun; with quite a few water and soap fights that broke out spontaneously. The whole day acted as a microcosm of what I feel it means to be a Christian. We gathered together as a community, were fed through the Word as well as the bread and wine, and then we were sent out into our community to bear witness to the love and grace of God through our words and our actions. And then instead of going our separate ways, we returned once again to church to be fed (this time by delicious food from El Napolito) and be in communion with one another. This is the cycle of what it means to be church. We gather so that we might be sent out, and we are sent out so that we might gather again. My first Bethlehem serves will most certainly remain in my heart for years to come.
We have a number of new things happening at Bethlehem in September that I am incredibly excited about. Change is never easy (says the guy who got mad that his parents had the audacity to buy new silverware while he was away at his first year of college) and there will most certainly be a bit of an adjustment period as we enter into this newness. But all of it speaks to the vitality and forward-motion of our congregation. We have a new website that is simply breath-taking, and took countless hours to create. We have a new bulletin that will be reused from week to week on a seasonal basis that will help us to be better stewards – both of our financial resources, as well as our ecological resources. We have a new welcome ministry that will be focused on making Bethlehem even more hospitable to visitors than it already is. Each one of these is a testament to the vibrant life of our congregation, and the hope that we can put in tomorrow thanks to what God has already done in our lives.
It is a great honor getting to be church with you all, and for that I thank you.