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October 20, 2015

What God's People Are About

An editorial in the Star Tribune last week caught my attention: Parent-child bond is a key to learning. (Oct 19) Based on research from the Search Institute, deepening relationship with children is key to child development and learning.  Five elements of the child-parental relationship influence the overall health of children:

1. Expressing care.
2. Challenging growth – helping kids stretch and grow.
3. Providing support – helping them achieve goals and carry out tasks.
4. Sharing power – listening and engaging their gifts
5. Expanding possibilities – introducing children to new people, possibilities and new horizons.

Well, said this pastor to herself, that sounds a lot like what we do as a faith community!  The article also recommended parents unplug, turn off and get away from screens for periods of time and have face-time with the children in their lives.  The underlying “strategy” for helping educate kids, and I would add, helping them grow in faith and love toward others, is spend time building relationships with them.

I think of Sunday mornings. A rich and significant chunk of time is spent doing the things listed above.  We gather together, from 0 to 95 years of age, for worship, learning and fellowship: to attune our ears to God’s word and call, tend our neighbor, extend peace, pray for the world, share in the morning chores, participate in the liturgy, meet new people every Sunday, be stretched in Sunday school, forums, by the gospel, share our time and money for others, offer support and care, check in with each other, extend hospitality.  And all the while, we do this the old fashioned way – without screens or technology, using our bodies, minds, hearts and voices, and paying attention to the presence of God among the gathered. 

As I get to be an older pastor, I am moved more and more, by the organic, wise, enduring and transcendent qualities inherent in being a community of faith together.  Search Institute’s wonderful research and work confirms what God’s people are about.  Well-being, integration of values and actions, belonging and belovedness are all integral to being church.  And of course, as I know all too well, we don’t always do this well.  We get small-minded, our egos fight for recognition, people are forgotten, our desire for comfort and ease means we miss risk-taking opportunities that open us to God’s in-breaking.  And, knowing this, being honest about this, we keep at it.  We love our children, call them by name, show up, ask about their lives, in essence, we are in relationship in all we do. 

This is my take. The gathering of God’s people, however it looks, in this face-paced and changing world, is going to be more and more critical. The hunger and yearning will not diminish, but will grow, and the church, us, God’s people, will continue to be formed by relationship and our shared humanity. Pretty old-fashioned, and, timeless.

Pastor Mary

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