Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sukkot Blessings!

As Christians, our roots are found in the Jewish faith.  During the “church history” unit, Faith UMC’s confirmation class usually makes a visit to Congregation Beth Shalom in The Woodlands for a Friday evening Shabbat service.  The students always have good questions to ask their hosts, and often see the connections between Jewish worship and Christian worship.

Today (September 25th) marks the end of Sukkot.  Also known as the Festival of Booths, this is a week long festival of giving thanks.  Read more about it here:  http://www.reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/sukkot    Follow the links about the customs and blessings as well.

In Boston, a city filled with college students, Orthodox rabbis will park a small trailer with a sukkot booth along the street next to a college or university campus, and encourage busy college students to take a moment between classes to step into the sukkot and say the traditional prayers.  Here you will find a slideshow of campus ministry sukkot booths: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/20/hillel-sukkahs-2013-sukkot_n_3957312.html  You’ll see the Aggie students giving the “gig ’em” sign in their booth, and at least two of the colleges are United Methodist related institutions.

It takes some creativity in our busy world to maintain traditions.  Despite the fact that Sukkot is a relatively minor tradition, and that it lasts a week, Jewish college students have found creative ways to honor their faith traditions that keep their faith lively.  Did you see all the smiles in those photos?

What faith traditions or rituals are most important to you?

How do you (and your church) keep faith traditions fresh and lively?

Perhaps the Spirit is inspiring you to be creative with a faith tradition at Faith UMC  – share with us your creative ideas!

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Being Church

Around Faith UMC we talk a lot about what it means to BE church rather than church as a building or programs.  There’s quite a bit of difference in those two understandings of “church”.

Years ago my child wanted to play soccer.  We signed up for FFPS, which stands for fun, fair, positive soccer.  As she was a beginner, it seemed a better place to start than the competitive leagues.  The key difference between FFPS and the league soccer wasn’t that every child had a positive experience (which is what the advertising told us) but in the organization structure.

The competitive leagues were set up so parents could watch games and practices.  Paid coaches and trainers worked with the students.   Parents paid for uniforms and equipment, and brought water or gatorade for their child.

In FFPS, parents ran the program.  One parent volunteered to be the coach (hopefully with another volunteering as assistant coach).  Another parent arranged practice times and a field.  Another parent organized portrait day.  Yet another parent found a team sponsor and got team shirts printed.  And still another organized volunteers for game day snacks.  Finally, someone organized the pep rally/parade for first game day, and someone else organized the end of season party.

One model uses paid professionals who have expertise to provide a service.  The other model involves the family in an experience.

Church can be like those two models.  A place you go to, with programs provided by paid staff.  Or a place where everyone is needed.  Where if you’re not there, you are missed.  Where your skills and talents are necessary.

The FFPS model of soccer didn’t end up on my child’s college application as a high point of excellence, or garner any scholarships.  The family had fun together, including grandparents, siblings, and divorced parents.  It wasn’t easy, people had to do things they didn’t quite know how to do, sometimes in the rain or the heat, people had to learn new things and get out of their comfort zone.

Certainly these aren’t the only models of church.  For this discussion, think about those two models.  Is Faith UMC being church?  or are we somewhere in between the two models?  Do people feel needed or missed at Faith?  Are their skills used?  Are they challenged?  How are all generations included?

The church staff thinks often about these questions.  What do you think?

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Babies in Church

Rev. Jeremy Smith is a dad and a UMC pastor in Portland, Oregon.  He also writes the blog “Hacking Christianity”.  This week he wrote about crying babies in church.  Give it a read here:

http://hackingchristianity.net/2013/09/preacher-or-performer-the-crying-baby-test.html

We have LOTS of babies… and toddlers… and preschoolers and elementary age students, and even quite a few intermediate school students and teenagers!  One of the greatest blessings at Faith UMC is all the children.  It is important in a community with so many young children to talk about worship and children.  So here are a few questions for discussion for this week.

1.  If you are the parent of a baby, what is your experience at Faith UMC?  Do you feel welcome?  Stressed?  Anxious?  Comfortable with your child in worship?

2.  What, if anything, would you change about worship at Faith UMC so that parents of babies and toddlers would be able to have a positive worship experience?

3.  This school year 5th and 6th graders have a Sunday school class at 9:30 and at 11:00 they are encouraged to attend worship with their parents.  Students at this age don’t cry like babies and are ready to participate fully in worship – but parents may still struggle.  What is your experience of worship with middle school students?  Is there anything that might help your family worship experience?

4.  As pastors, we love seeing families worshiping together and don’t mind babies in worship.  We are encouraged to see so many students involved in our music program.  What would YOU love to see in worship at Faith UMC?  How would you like to be involved in worship ?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  Peace!

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