The Great In-Between

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

The Great In-Between

“We are not who we were, and yet we are not who we will become.”
– Carrie Newcomer, singer/songwriter

Welcome to the great in-between. The recent national election reveals exactly how far we are from being the Church that truly represents the Kingdom of God here on earth.

We all survived past elections. Some of us grumbled and some of us celebrated, but we fairly quickly got on with our lives. This feels very different. The gaping divide among Americans shows no signs of ending. We are further apart than ever before, gathering and commiserating mostly with those who agree with us, getting our news from sources that agree with us, and doubling down on our convictions that we are right. Which means others must be wrong. And where are the Moravians in all of this? We’ve been pretty quiet, haven’t we?

Bishop Wayne Burkette recently expressed his view that many Moravian Churches are ‘purple’ – i.e. filled with a mix of political points of view. Unlike churches where all views are identical, he said, we are challenged by the real stories and real faith of people who view the world very differently from ourselves. Proverbs 27:17 says ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Thanks to Brother John Jackman for using this in a post-election sermon.)

While this could be a positive for Moravians, it is a very fine line to walk. On the one hand, being purple might make our churches safe spaces, free of the turmoil and high emotion that often comes along with political discussion. On the other hand, it leaves many of us feeling empty and paralyzed, unsure how we engage in real community with those who love Christ with us. In our efforts to keep peace and maintain relationships, we avoid discussing difficult issues with one another.

What IS the Moravian way forward here?

Let’s face it, we modern Moravians are not those early, radical members of the ancient Unity who defied the state church of its day to form the first voluntary, peace church. We were early to embrace the idea of spiritual equality, where women, children, and people of color were considered equal in the eyes of God. We were early to head to the furthest ends of the earth, reaching out to the marginalized and those no one else wanted to even recognize as human.

We are not who we were.

hardthingsarehard

We are not who we will become either. We like the idea of returning to our roots, or at least letting those roots inform our faith today, but we struggle to live into that reality. The world can be a frightening place these days and we are uncertain how to proceed. It is easier to sit in our beautiful, not-quite-full sanctuaries and sing our familiar hymns, raising money to pay off the new organ or redecorate the parlor. We talk about our desire to grow and yet when those different from us appear in our sanctuaries, we shift uncomfortably in our pews. We talk about being missional, and then hold another chicken pie dinner and call it a day.

What is next for the church? How will God call us to a new thing, one that will challenge and maybe even frighten us, but also lead us to a new, Spirit-filled reality of faith, love, and hope?

This election, while divisive and unprecedented, actually provides us with an opportunity to come together in our “purple-ness,” move out of the great in-between and toward a future filled with grace and hope.

There are no easy answers. A newly-installed sign in my office reads: Hard things are hard. Ain’t that the truth!

Bishop Sam Gray provided us with some guidance in a recent post: “No matter what happens … in this election, Jesus Christ is still our Chief Elder. We must never allow partisan politics or personal preferences to get in the way of the mission that Jesus has entrusted… to us!”

To continue this mission entrusted to us, we must love each other. Only we can love each other. Only we can figure out new and different ways of being the church together. We won’t be able to do it if we can’t even talk to each other. We must listen in a way so as to recognize one another, and we must recognize everyone. We need each other now more than ever. (Here’s an example of how one church is doing this.)

And then, “We must be brave enough to speak and to listen, to share our hopes and our fears, and to remember that when we care for the least, whoever we consider to be least, we do it for Christ. The church has work to do, for ourselves, for those on whatever margins, and for the world around us.” (Brother Riddick Weber at Moravian Theological Seminary during a recent chapel service.)

And we do have all that we need to carry on Christ’s work in the world today. Ephesians 3: 20-21 (from The Message) lays it out for us. “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”

Oh yes.

It is easy to complain about what leaders and governments are doing or not doing. But just like it was for our Moravian ancestors, our work as Christians is clear: Love our neighbors as ourselves. Love our enemies. Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God.

Let’s get to work as the church Jesus loves, moving closer to the people Jesus loves.


rcb at fourRuth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC. 

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Building Relationships with Young Adults

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BY DOUG RIGHTS |

The Young Adult Working Group, one of the working groups of our Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM), is discussing plans to offer an open forum on young adult ministry in our churches. The group plans to offer this open forum sometime early next year. In preparation for this provincial event, the Young Adult Working Group had a trial run at the November Moravian Ministry Association meeting in which around thirty people attended.

Young Adult Open Forum

Brother Zach Dease, pastor at Macedonia Moravian and member of the Young Adult Working Group, guided us through this event which included videos and discussion questions. The first video was called “We Are the Millennials: a Letter to Baby Boomers” which shared several reasons why millennials (young adults) are not active in church. Other videos included some of our local Moravian young adults and a former Moravian young adult who shared their feelings and experiences of being a young adult in the Moravian Church. These videos showed a variety of perspectives from young adults who are active in their churches to one would rather be out doing ministry than sitting in a church to one who feels the Moravian Church does not meet her needs and has found them met elsewhere. There was some good discussion following the videos.

This open forum also included questions for discussion from which many at the forum shared their responses. The questions were:

  1. How would you feel if you were a young adult Moravian today?
  2. How should we be supporting our young adult Moravians in our churches? What is your church doing now? Where do you need help?
  3. On a scale of 1-10 (1 lowest, 10 highest), how would you rate the performance of the Moravian Church in serving young adults, and why do you pick that number?
  4. If the church seems to be struggling to support millennials now, what can we do to serve the children, the next generation, and ensure that they do not find themselves in this same situation?

Sister Victoria Lasley, a candidate for Moravian ministry and student at Wake Forest Divinity School and member of the Young Adult Working Group, shared some of the responses from the questions. Due to time restraints we were not able to discuss the responses, but the working group will use this information for its future event.

Young Adult Open Forum

Those who attended this open forum also received a recent survey in which around twenty Moravian young adults in our area responded to questions about the involvement or lack of involvement of young adults in the church. Many of the survey responses tied in with the information from the videos and discussion. The survey also included some practical things churches can do for young adults which include:

  • Know who your young adults are and contact them.
  • Have services and programs that are relevant and meaningful..
  • Have someone whose ministry is to keep up with the church’s young adults.
  • Have leaders who are sensitive to the needs of young adults and do your best to relate with them.
  • Be willing to be flexible and open to new ideas.
  • Don’t be afraid to deal with tough questions.
  • Have a church where young adults want to invite their friends.

Soon the Young Adult Working Group will announce the time and place for its open forum. We hope many who are concerned about our ministry to our young adults will be there. Our group’s prayer is that looking at the issues and at what we can do will help make a difference as we minister to the young adults in our churches.

Young Adult Working Group:

Laura Bennett-Overcash (Friedberg), Zach Dease (Macedonia), Victoria Lasley (Bethania), Reed Lawson (Bethania), Amy Linville (Rural Hall), Sabrina Maksi (Christ), Randall May (Rural Hall), Doug Rights (Board of Cooperative Ministries)


If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Here he is with his lovely wife, Kathy. 

Doug with wife Kathy

Who Would Have Thought?

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BY DOUG RIGHTS |

It has been almost two months since I received some not-so-good news. This news finds me saying to myself, “Who would have thought?”

Who would have thought that the membership of our Southern Province would have declined as it has? Especially since the Moravian Church has so much to offer, including our rich and wonderful history, our special and meaningful traditions, our emphasis on God’s love than on God’s judgment, our value of community, our desire to serve others, and our willingness to accept people with different opinions.

Who would have thought that the financial giving from our Southern Province churches to our province would have declined so much these past several years? Certainly part of this is due to our decline in membership. Yet sometimes I wonder how many of us Southern Province Moravians prayerfully consider what God wants us to give and give that amount. How many of us consider God’s guideline of tithing and tithe or try to work toward tithing? How many of us see the importance of giving not only to our church families, but also the importance of how our giving goes to ministries in our province and ministry to the world?

Young Adult Moravians

Young Adult Moravians (YAMs) at a recent cookout/bonfire event.

And who would have thought our province would be at a point when we could not support a person working full-time with the youth and young adults of our province? Our Board of Cooperative Ministries shared the recent news of a shortfall in our next year’s budget. I think it is really more of a “big-fall.” Our board had to make the very tough decision that it could no longer support a full-time person to serve as Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries.

This decision is my not-so-good news. I am sad I will not be able to continue to serve in a capacity that I have loved these past four years. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve our youth, college age and young adults of the province. Now I look forward to the next step God has for me.

But the greater sadness I feel, along with many others, is that of not having someone in this position. The members and staff of the Board of Cooperative Ministries will do all they can to keep our youth, college, and young adult ministries going. We hope this will also be a time when people will step up and help our youth and young adults feel even more wanted, more loved, and more connected to our churches.

My hope and prayer is that the day will come when I can say: Who would have thought that despite the lack of funds and a full-time staff person, our youth, college, and young adult ministries continue to be strong? That these ministries will thrive in even greater ways, and that our youth, college age and young adults will help bring renewal to our churches and our province!


Read the original announcement about the discontinuation of the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries position here.

Read the questions and answers post regarding that announcement here.


If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

Doug with wife Kathy

Q&A about BCM 2017 Changes

You can read the full announcement here. We know there are questions, so we have taken a stab at answering a few below:

Why Doug’s position? Weren’t there other places you could cut?
In order to answer that, it helps to go back to the beginning of this process. Given our “high-touch” ministry work, our staff costs (salaries, insurance, taxes, etc.) for nearly five staff people and contract labor equal about 60% of our budget. So we knew that any major decrease in income would logically hit this area the hardest, but that it would also require cuts in many parts of our ministry budget.

Earlier in 2016, we were informed of impending 2017 budget constraints which could amount to a $40,000 to $80,000 deficit for BCM. BCM’s Executive Committee engaged a group of current and former BCM members and program participants to consider the likely 2017 budget constraints. This group met, examined the current budget, and explored a variety of options, including but not limited, to:

  • Cutting expenses.
  • Increasing income through other sources (limited due to current provincial fundraising restrictions).
  • Re-imagining staffing configurations.
  • Transforming/evolving BCM’s vision and reconfiguring around that.

The group presented the Executive Committee with some recommendations about ways to address these looming financial challenges. This group strongly suggested BCM’s ministry must flow from its priorities, which need to be realigned in light of both the recent BCM planning retreat outcomes and the dynamic, shifting landscape of church.

Parallel to that conversation, the Provincial Elders Conference (PEC) has long been considering ministry priorities, as is their mandate from Synod. Brother David Guthrie shared at BCM’s July meeting a memo from PEC outlining a shift in BCM ministry priorities, which needs to occur prior to the 2018 Synod.  Specifically, BCM is asked to focus on congregational development, leadership development, and emerging ministry efforts.

In late summer, BCM learned that the decline in our 2017 income would be approximately 16%, or roughly $64,000. After much discussion and consideration, the Executive Committee proposed the following actions in order to address the 2017 budget deficit while also working to meet PEC’s recent directive:

  • Reimagine the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries position so that ministry work is carried out primarily by volunteers, contract employees, dual call, or teams of individuals. A percentage of the funds currently designated for this full-time position would be redirected towards continuing youth, college age, and young adult ministry as well as emerging ministry.
  • Reduce elements of BCM’s program and administrative budgets.

So, after a thorough analysis of all our options, this is where we landed. It has been many months, many conversations, and a lot of prayer that has led us to this place. We didn’t get here easily.

Why didn’t you just pull money from your endowments or invested funds?
We don’t believe that is a sustainable option. BCM’s primary income source (approximately 80%) comes from congregational provincial share funds. The rest of BCM’s income comes from interest or planned disbursements from invested and designated funds, and Resource Center profits. The Executive Committee considered whether money could be used from BCM’s various funds to cover the budget shortfall, but determined that using these funds for operations would not be sustainable over any significant period of time. They believe these funds are best used either for their intended purpose (many are restricted to certain ministries), to infuse various ministries with needed resources, or to cover emergency situations.

Could you not try and raise that money through direct fundraising?
The Southern Province has used a “unified budget” approach for many years, which provides funding for its various agencies through church income and other sources. Direct fundraising requires approval by the Provincial Support Service Board, and while there may be changes in the future, direct fundraising is not currently a viable option.

What happens now? How are we going to make sure we’re still focusing our efforts on youth, who are so important to the church?
The Executive Committee already met with some of the youth and young adults who have leadership roles with the Regional Youth Council and the Young Adult Ministry Team. We explained our situation and listened to them share their frustrations, questions, and suggestions. We took lots of notes.

We’re now devising a plan of action to reimagine existing programs with new staff configuration and with greater input from those we serve. We’ll be talking more about that in the coming months.

Doug has already begun working to ensure a smooth transition of youth, college, and young adult ministries to interim and/or other volunteers or staff. He and Aaron Linville recently shared the news with the rest of the Regional Youth Council and they’ll be working to make sure that all voices are heard during the transition.

Additionally, BCM members will be conversing with college age Moravians to discover how they might want to see this ministry continue. In many ways, this provides everyone (churches, members, clergy, the province) opportunities to deepen and strengthen their relationships with young Moravians.

Our young adult leaders are confident they can provide for themselves, with staff support from the BCM coming from remaining staff.

What about next year? How will you continue your ministries with few resources?

That’s a good question and one we have been talking about for quite some time. We know that we are facing an adaptive challenge, one that will require all of us, not just provincial staff, to solve. The upcoming Synod of 2018 will provide the opportunity for us to make some bold choices about the future of our church and our ministries.

Despite the challenges facing the church, we are hopeful that working together, we can become a church that shares the faith, love, and hope of Christ in the world. We will need to be creative and persistent and faithful. We commit to creating and continuing conversations about BCM’s long-term sustainability as well as being part of the solution and not the problem.

What will happen with emerging ministries?

BCM is beginning conversations with PEC regarding the definition and implementation of emerging ministries. We’ll soon develop a working group to further explore ministry plans. We have set aside funds for the 2017 budget to provide both program and limited staff support in this area, but these plans are still emerging themselves!

Will Doug be open to call to a congregation?

Of course! Like all those who are ordained, Doug is open and eligible to receive a call. PEC actively considers all pastors for call and Doug is no exception. Doug is first and foremost a servant of God, willing to trust that God will reveal a new way for him to serve within the Moravian Church.

What are you going to do to recognize Doug’s work?
Doug has been with us since December of 2012 and we want to be sure we celebrate his time with us. We are currently consulting with those he serves most often and will let folks know of any plans as soon as they are made. In the meantime, we will take every chance we can to affirm Doug’s important ministry and to celebrate the many ways he’s made a difference in all our lives. We encourage you to do the same!

 

 

An Announcement from BCM

September 19, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Since 2009, the Board of Cooperative Ministries, or BCM, has been engaging and supporting our Southern Province Moravian congregations in their ministries. We provide hands-on ministry support for children & families, youth, college age, young adults, clergy, lay leaders, older adults, and more – both provincially and in congregations and RCCs. It takes a lot of people, creativity, dedication and money to do this important work. Our four and half-person staff and 25-member volunteer board strive to be good stewards of the money given to us by churches through their provincial share contributions.

Nearly 80% of BCM’s income comes from church support, part of what you put in the offering plate on Sunday, and for that we are very grateful. And yet the world and the church continue to change. One consequence of this change is that, this year, income is down significantly. We must reimagine and realign ways we do ministry.

After months of study, conversation, discernment, and prayer, the BCM approved a budget acknowledging these new realities. In the next year, we’ll provide Regional Youth Council, college age, and young adult ministry support, but we’ll be doing it without a full-time staff person.

Beginning in January 2017, the Rev. Doug Rights will no longer serve as Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries for BCM. We are sad to see him go, but glad that he will continue to share his many, amazing gifts with the Moravian Church and that he will continue to be a significant advocate for our youth.

As we say goodbye to Doug, it is our priority to make sure these ministries do not end. We are developing plans for the youth and young adults in our province to have the leadership they need. We’ve answered some of the most common questions about this change in another post.

Please stay tuned for details about how we will celebrate Doug’s years of ministry with BCM as well as our plans for providing ministry during challenging times. We ask for your prayers and your continued support, and may God continue to bless all of us as together we grow in faith, love and hope, following Jesus in serving the world.

-The Board of Cooperative Ministries

Don Britt (Covenant, appointed by PEC)
Malissa Bumgarner (New Hope, representing the Yadkin View RCC)
Elaine Cockerham (Trinity, representing the Salem Creek RCC)
Rachel Desmarais, Vice Chair (Trinity, appointed by PEC)*
Peggy Dodson (Home, appointed by PEC)
Heidi Everhart (Friedberg, appointed by PEC)
Carol Foltz, Chair (Moravia, appointed by PEC)*
John Foltz (Trinity, appointed by PEC)
Marsha Fowler (Konnoak Hills, representing the South Branch RCC)
David Guthrie, At-Large PEC Rep (serving ex-officio, President of PEC)*
LeaAnn Haynes (Friedland, representing the South Wachovia RCC)
Criss Hiatt (Kernersville, representing the Sunrise RCC)
Rhonda Hiatt (Mt. Bethel, representing the Mount Ararat RCC)
Hazel Hooker (New Hope – FL, appointed by PEC)
Tanya Kimel (Friedberg, representing the Salisbury Road RCC)
Aaron Linville, At-Large RCC Rep (Rural Hall, representing the North Branch RCC)*
Cat Long (Bethabara, representing the Pilot Mountain RCC)
Sabrina Maksi (Christ, appointed by PEC)
Michael Terry, Secretary (Rural Hall, appointed by PEC)*
Shanda Trogdon (Moravia, representing the Dan Springs RCC)
Joyce Vance (Peace, appointed as PEC representative)
Leibia Willis (First – GA, appointed by PEC)
Alfred Yorks (Suriname Fellowship, representing the Florida District RCC)

Staff
Ruth Cole Burcaw, Executive Director*
Beth Hayes, Director of Congregational Resources and Ministry
Doug Rights, Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries
Heather Stevenson, Administrative Assistant

*members of BCM’s Executive Committee

Vacant – Petersbrook RCC Representative
Vacant – Youth Representative (appointed by PEC on recommendation of RYC)

Questions? Visit our Q&A post.

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Eight

BY TIM BYERLY |

If you’ve read the previous posts in this series about Living Faith, thank you for staying with me on this. If you haven’t, you can find themhere (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). I hope you will check them out.


You will need a little background information for this post to make sense. If you aren’t familiar with how the Moravian Church is organized, you need to understand that the Southern Province of the Moravian Church in America is governed by a body called a Synod which meets for about four days every four years. This Synod consists mainly of the pastors and educators who are serving churches along with elected representatives from the member congregations.

Something happened at the last Synod which was held two years ago in the spring of 2014 which could bible image alter the future of our Church. I’m not saying it will, just that it could. A resolution was passed calling for the establishment of Manna Ministries–or maybe a way to recognize Manna Ministries–to be overseen by the Provincial Elders’ Conference (PEC) or by an entity designated by the PEC. This was not so much about creating a new “department” in the church or even about creating a new ministry. It was about recognizing “new and emerging ministries that do not otherwise fit into the existing models and categories of ministry.” There seemed to have been a lot of interest and energy among the delegates over this concept. It reflects the belief of some that the church’s ministry–or a portion of its ministry–needs to move in an innovative, non-conventional direction if it is to be relevant to our current culture.

One of the exciting things about Living Faith is that it looks in two directions. It connects with the past by using the model of Moravian prayer bands (see blog post 6), and it connects with our present and future by connecting us with each other and with God in a time when it’s easy to become disconnected. It capitalizes on the dynamics of spiritual unity and fellowship more fully than most of us are currently experiencing. It offers to invigorate our faith and our congregations through a practice that is a part of Moravian heritage but which is rarely found in Moravian congregational life today.

When I heard of the adoption of the Manna Ministries resolution, I sensed in that action an eagerness to do something innovative, something non-conventional, not just so we can say that we are being innovative, but to search for something that offered to make our experience of Christ more powerful and life-changing. And I sensed a desire to find a way for our church to have a more profound impact on our world.

Not always, but many times when I’m describing Living Faith, I hear responses that reflect some of this eagerness to make our congregational life more transformative. That’s what I’ve sensed in many conversations.

I’m not sure Living Faith fits the vision of Manna Ministries the way it was conceived at Synod. I wasn’t there. And Living Faith is intended usually to begin within a congregation’s fellowship rather than something apart from a congregation. But I do see some of the same characteristics that one might find in a ministry that doesn’t “fit into the existing models and categories of ministry.” Our existing way of “doing church” doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on spiritual growth. It’s offered, it’s presented as a good thing, but not as a major priority for the entire congregation.

Coupling spiritual growth with outreach is another unique quality of the Living Faith model. Outreach doesn’t usually grow out of spiritual growth as it occurs in small group fellowship. They seem to be done independently of each other. Let me hasten to add that I’m not suggesting that they are never joined in this way in our churches. It just doesn’t seem to me to be the norm as it is in Living Faith.

I’m excited about this yearning for a deeper church life that impacts our lives and our world. This is what I sense in this resolution on Manna Ministries. I believe it’s something we need. Living Faith can enable our congregations to move beyond themselves in ways they are not currently doing. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.


Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Seven

BY TIM BYERLY |

This is the 7th post in this blog about Living Faith, a model of congregational life that has been developed by the Board of Cooperative Ministries of the Moravian Church, Southern Province. If you’ve been sticking with me throughout this discussion, thank you. If you haven’t, you can find the previous posts here (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6).


How many times have you participated in a worship service—and then left with a sense of transformation in your life? Not necessarily a conversion experience, but definitely a moment of growth or transformation? When you were different in a good way than when you arrived at the service? And the difference did not fade away as life’s challenges distracted you from a good and holy experience? How recent was the last time you felt something like this?

In the first post in this blog about Living Faith, I wrote about my belief that God calls the Church to be involved in three basic activities:

1) provide for the spiritual growth of its members,

2) find ways to do outreach in the surrounding community and the world, and

3) regular times of worship.

Everything else the Church does is probably good but is not essential to its calling, or could be grouped under one of these three callings.

Most of this blog has focused on how to encourage spiritual growth in our congregations. That’s the main objective of Living Faith. However, in post #3 I described how outreach fits into the Living Faith model. One thing that I haven’t discussed is the inter-relationship between Living Faith and worship. They have a profound impact on each other.

Since I am a pastor, it may surprise you to learn that I think the power of worship to bless us and Living Faith Small Group Ministrytransform us is not dependent on a good sermon or worship leadership. Musicians may be troubled to find that I would say the same about music. Don’t misunderstand me–these are critical to good worship. They enable us to draw near to God in worship and to experience and express our faith. If this is happening, then you will wonder what else I want out of worship. I want to be transformed; I want to be blessed in ways that will stay with me when I get to Monday, and to Wednesday, and to days that are darkened by my burdens. Great sermons and music aren’t enough for me. Nor are liturgies and prayers and even Scripture readings. All of these are essential. Without them, worship is not worship. But I need something more to make worship transformative.

I need the bonds of fellowship with those who sit with me in worship. Not friendliness, but fellowship. I need something more than the smiles and handshakes exchanged before and after we worship. I need to be in worship with those who’ve shared life with me, who know me, and I them. Living Faith enables relationships like this to flourish. This happens as people walk together in faith in Living Faith groups. Then it happens as these small groups reach out to impact the world in ways they feel the Spirit guiding them. In such fellowship we learn about each other, and we love each other just as we are. We do this not with excessive emotion but with strong bonds of friendship.

I am imaging sitting in worship near three or four people I know well. We’ve become friends that talk through our thoughts about faith with each other and have encouraged each other. We’ve done projects together in service to Christ. We’ve learned give and take in our relationship. There may be 500 other people worshiping with us, but the other 495 don’t affect me as much as those few that I know so well. As we worship, I see their faces; I hear their voices. I’m recalling conversations and experiences that we have shared. The service progresses, and I feel a sense of unity with these who know me as we seek God’s presence together. This makes worship transformative. I am lifted to God by worshiping with those who’ve shared sacred experiences with me. And these experiences come from our times of fellowship and service as one body.

That’s what happens when we come together in a small gathering like a Living Faith group. Who would like to help develop such a community of faith? I would love to hear from you.


Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly