Back in April of this year, NL Moore & Associates presented a report to the church that assessed where we are, along with recommendations of how we might move forward. One of those recommendations was to create something like a "Before & After" service. She suggested it would be good for us to look at the past and name honestly where we've been (the good and the bad), as well as look toward the future and imagine where God might want to take us. It would function also as a marker in time where we would recommit ourselves to one another and the good work God may want to do through us.
This past Sunday marked that Before & After moment. For those who missed it, here’s a summary of the main movements of the service. You’re invited to spend some time pondering the questions that were posed, and, if you’d like, share your responses with others.
A word from Daniel Long
“In Nehemiah 1, the People of Israel are returning from exile and Jerusalem—the temple, the central place of God's presence and power—is destroyed. The People of God are in a time of disorientation and the major premise of both Ezra and Nehemiah is to call Israel back to covenant loyalty and a rebuilding of their city. There's both a before and after reality connected to their survival and identity as God's people. The beginning of the book begins with both a corporate confession before God regarding the past and looks toward the future that's only possible because their God is one who forgives and sustains and covenants to his people.”
A WORD from Beth Balmer
“Romans 2 says that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance—we can take a good look at ourselves today, and name some of our weaker spots because we trust in the loving kindness of our Father. God has been incredibly good to us—we have some amazing resources: this building, the quality and caliber of people, we are financially stable. Nancy Moore identified that we have theological diversity, we’re highly educated, there are a lot of good ideas and untapped potential here, we have creativity. But she also pointed to the shadow side of those strengths.”
Confession and repentance
Though it was difficult, we had to ask ourselves who had we become? Of what must we repent? More specifically, we were asked to answer three key questions: What is a characteristic of Grace we need to throw off? What is holding us back from God’s work? How have I contributed to this that I need to confess?
What is a characteristic of Grace we need to throw off?
What is holding us back from God’s work?
How have I contributed to this that I need to confess?
Following our time of repentance, we laid our confessions at the foot of the cross and received the bread and cup together as a community.
PRAYER OF THANKS
Lord, we have attempted to approach You rightly—as broken and contrite people in need.
We have worshipped; we have confessed; we have participated in the sacred remembrance of your sacrifice.
Moving forward, embolden us to live out your calling in advancing the Kingdom:
Resource us intimately to each other,
Make forgiveness the posture we hold,
Remind us graciously that we are only as good as we are dependent upon Your Spirit.
Bind us in the hope of who we are: rediscovering the power of prayer, compassion across generational lines, ministry among the sisters, leadership in the diversity of gifts, a steadfast willingness to turn towards others in grief and loss.
And bind us in the hope of who we could be: united in thankfulness & love.
Empower us in mission and purpose, as we press on—the People of God; The People of Grace!
Surrender and new fruit
Following communion, John Douglas invited us to participate in filling trees with new fruit, which bear our declarations of hope for the future. We asked ourselves the following questions: What fruit do we hope to see as we continue to seek the Father and let Him lead us? What does the Spirit want to do in our midst? How can we encourage and edify each other towards new things? Where might Christ be calling us to be his hands and feet?
Lord. Please come and meet us. We choose to set aside our own power and protection. We choose to sit at your feet with open palms and we want to depend on you this morning, not ourselves. Please guide us as we try to put words to our deepest longings and desires to be closer to you and to let you have your way with us as individuals and as a church family. Amen.
What fruit do we hope to see as we continue to seek the Father and let Him lead us?
What does the Spirit want to do in our midst?
Where might Christ be calling us to be his hands and feet?
Prayer of Surrender
We are no longer our own but yours.
Put us to what you will, rank us with whom you will;
put us to doing, put us to suffering;
let us be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let us be full, let us be empty,
let us have all things, let us have nothing:
We freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
this covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Methodist Worship Book, page 290. © 1999 Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission