Seven Reflections on Synod 2018

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Seven Moravians, both clergy and laity, from seven different congregations, reflect on the Southern Province Synod of 2018. Read their reflections below. You can find the official Synod 2018 summary from the Provincial Elders’ Conference on MCSP.org.

Photo of Synod by Andrew David Cox

The Synod 2018 podium | Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

 


 

–1.–

My first Synod. I was excited, nervous, almost burdened by the responsibility of what lie ahead; but I was ready. You see, we had been preparing for Synod for over two years. Our days at Synod were exhausting, beginning with communion at 7 a.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. or later. Exhausting but wonderful, because God was present in small and in big ways. I was assigned a roommate who had graduated from the same small college as I had, both of us with the same major and many of the same experiences. What are the chances? A small thing, and yet…

Then there were the big things: a sense of community, that we were brothers and sisters in Christ, and we were greeted that way. There was evidence of the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we reached consensus on hard issues. “And in all things love…” was shown to our brothers and sisters, even those with whom we disagreed.

I’ll conclude with Jeremiah 29:11, a promise God made to his people Israel, but also a promise that the Moravian Church can claim even today: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Thanks be to God.

Judy Albert, Mizpah Moravian Church, Rural Hall, NC 

 


 

Photo of Synod by Andrew David Cox

The Rev. Andrew Heil, Rev. Tony Hayworth, and other Synod delegates worship at Synod 2018 | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–2.–

My attendance and participation at Synod 2018 was the first of this kind since my transition from the Baptist denomination. Being able to have participated was a great opportunity, as I got firsthand experience of the mode of operation of a Moravian church business meeting of this magnitude. I learned so much over the three day period, and I am confident that what I have learned will aid in my development as I seek to serve God and my fellow brothers and sisters.

The high points of Synod for me were the worship sessions and the small group meetings. The worship sessions were thoroughly orchestrated and worship was intentional. The small group meetings allowed for bonding with each other as we shared in one common discussion. Although we may not have all agreed on a particular subject, there was mutual love and respect which was essential to the theme of Synod, “Living the Essentials With Courage for the Future.” The essentials of course are faith, hope and love. Additionally, to see a female being elected bishop was just an amazing thing for me.

My hope is that as the church moves forward, she will seek to hold the banner of Jesus Christ high, be the salt and light of this sinful world, and will not compromise the word of God.

Evette Campbell, Palm Beach Moravian Church, West Palm Beach, FL

 

Photo of Synod 2018 by Mike Riess

The Revs. Carol Foltz and Tom Shelton embrace after Rev. Foltz is elected bishop. Rev. Shelton would also be elected bishop later that afternoon. | Photo by Mike Riess / Moravian IBOC 

 


 

–3.–

Synod 2018 was my first Synod experience as a pastor and member of the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province. I was overwhelmed by the overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit I felt and experienced through delegates’ personal testimonies and statements, as they shared on the floor in vulnerable and intense moments.

It also resonated with me watching Moravians of different congregations and backgrounds join around the table at meals and talk as if they had known each other their whole lives. As I traveled home from Synod 2018, I felt a sense of humility and compassion for the young adult delegates who began to find their voice and speak up. As a young person and young clergy, it can be hard at times to find a appropriate way to speak my thoughts, feelings, and desires on topics that could be different from those around me in the church. We often say we want the voices of the young people, but then when their voices do not line up with those in the church, the sense of wanting their voices suddenly becomes a faint memory.

The voices of the young adult delegates and the reception received from older delegates has given me more hope and excitement for the future of the Southern Province. Synod 2018 left me with the reminder that we can accept the differences age and opinion bring. With Christ at the center of our faith, nothing can stand between us as we move forward together with hope for the future of the church. Synod 2018 was a memorable experience in my first year of ministry and I look forward to being part of Synod for many years to come.

The Rev. Victoria Lasley, Associate Pastor, Fairview Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 

The Rev. Victoria Lasley helps lead closing worship for Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

 


 

–4.–

“The Lord is risen!” These familiar words from the Easter Morning Liturgy were the first words spoken at the 2018 Synod. It seemed fitting that we began our time together by praying this Moravian confession of faith. As we stated, in one voice, our shared belief in God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the church, we heard stories of how different Moravians live out their beliefs with faith, love, and hope and were challenged to consider how we do the same.

As the Synod did the work of examining and overseeing the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Province – electing new leadership, calling bishops, and considering proposals – the essentials of faith, love, and hope were very evident. Although we had many differences of opinion, we were able to share those differences while remaining united in our love for our Savior and our love for each other.

“The Lord is risen indeed!” These familiar words from the Easter Liturgy were part of our closing worship for Synod. It was appropriate that we began with the Easter Morning Liturgy and ended with the Easter Liturgy, for these two prayers encompass all of our faith, they share our love, and they proclaim our hope. My prayer since Synod has come from the words of that closing liturgy: “For we are convinced that neither death, nor life, not angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Rev. Joe Moore, Associate Pastor, New Philadelphia Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 


 

IBOC Executive Director, Mike Riess, and Southern Province clergy play music during a free moment at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–5.–

It was a great learning experience for not only the business side of our Synod, but also the spiritual side of my life. We not only got a lot of work done for the Southern Province, we also had a lot of powerful worship services involving some wonderful pastors and leaders from all over the Moravian Church.

Our work actually started last fall when I was assigned to the leadership committee and during some of those meetings, we spent a lot of the mornings and afternoons trying to streamline processes. I also learned how incredibly busy it is as we went from worship services to committee meetings and back to Synod-wide business meetings where proposals are voted on and passed.

It was fun to be a part of several such proposals that made it to the floor of Synod, to get to read one such proposal aloud on Sunday, and watch as it got voted on and passed. This really sends a powerful message to all of us. We are listened to when we are sent as representatives of our respective churches and that we have a strong voice in the PEC and the Southern Province.

John Nelms, Board of Trustees member, Clemmons Moravian Church, Clemmons, NC 

 


 

–6.–

This year’s Synod, my first Synod, was a time of anxiety for me. I knew of the pressing issues and the contentious conversations that would likely take place. I did what I could to prepare myself for committee and plenary session and was certainly witness to some challenging moments.

What I did not expect to see was the Spirit at work throughout the entirety of our time together. It began with the warm sense of welcome I felt upon my arrival, continued through the election of our newest bishops, and was most apparent during the most stressful times.

Despite our differences, moments of disagreement were regularly followed by outpourings of love. This showing gave me solace and stands as an example of how we as Moravians are called to share our message by living out the essentials we proclaim.

Our church is not defined by the differences we sometimes find in one another, but rather it is defined by the unity and the brotherhood we share in Christ.

With most of my anxieties at bay, I returned home with a renewed confidence in our church. As we work to discern our mission in this world, may we continue to listen to the moving of the Spirit.

The Daily Texts for the day following the conclusion of Synod, April 23, summarized my experience appropriately: “Cast out all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Zach Routh, Grace Moravian Church, Mt. Airy, NC

 


 

Newly re-elected PEC President, the Rev. David Guthrie, offers closing remarks at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–7.–

I left Synod 2018 with two overwhelming feelings: exhaustion and hope. I knew the weekend was going to be a long one, and I expected many tough discussions to come before the delegates. Truthfully, I was preparing for the worst. In the end, the final decisions (and especially the process to get there) made the sometimes-endless meetings worth it.

There were a lot of emotions, a lot of tears, and certainly some disagreement along the way. But through it all, the words spoken by our brothers and sisters were spoken with love and respect. We were constantly reminded that, even though we have different views, we have one incredible thing in common: our love of Jesus Christ. It was this essential, the one that Moravians speak of so often, that allowed us to move forward in unity. I certainly don’t take that for granted.

One important observation I had – something that surprised me throughout was the number of young people representing their congregations and agencies. We hear a lot of talk about the average age of our membership (not often in a positive way). This Synod was a reminder that we have great leaders, including a lot of active and committed young people, who are willing to challenge the church and lead us into the future.

This gives me hope.

Eric Vernon, Calvary Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 


See the official Synod 2018 summary from the PEC at MCSP.org [LINK]


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Friendship Through the Wilderness

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

Photo of a palm cross

Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

We are coming toward the end of our wilderness journey, this Lenten season filled with opportunity to explore our faith, to learn new ways to be present as Jesus taught us in the example of his own life. 

Forty days feels like a long time to do this incredible work of honoring God’s wisdom in us, to be humbled by its transformative strength and power, often in ways we can barely begin to unravel in this Great Mystery that God truly is.

And then suddenly, there is Palm Sunday. We sing our Hosannas, echoing those surrounding Jesus as he returned to Jerusalem. 

And, we know what comes next. 

By Biblical accounts, so did Jesus. His time in the wilderness appears to have given him affirmation, personal resolve, and the renewed foundation of faith to walk back out of the wilderness and into the fire. And, as he faced this stretch of his life, he also had his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. 

It is a Biblical concept, this sense of connection to each other that can be described as deep affection, respect, admiration and love. In describing Jesus, each gospel writer allows a great teacher, prophet and savior to emerge. But John’s one sentence speaks of Jesus the friend: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (John 11:5).” Jesus spent time with them in their home, including the Passover, a true family celebration. One can only surmise that in the remembrance of the Passover ritual and tradition, there were also stories told of past gatherings, and some laughter. 

From Jesus and his friends we can learn some wonderful lessons about friendship.

Image of friends hanging out on a mountain

Photo by Arthur Poulin, via Unsplash.com

Friends become a safe haven when hospitality is shared, hearts are opened, and love is freely given. The sisters clearly were hurt and angry, confused and deeply saddened when Jesus took so long getting back to them as Lazarus was dying. They were equally elated and grateful at the results when Jesus finally did show up.  Raising Lazarus from the dead must have been a recurring story around their table whenever Jesus came to visit. How could it not be?

Friends make us better. Augustine believed it was important to surround ourselves with people who are better than us because they make us better. A friend and I laughed over the fact that we had both chosen each other for this reason. While Jesus was known to many as teacher, healer, prophet and miracle worker, he was also known to this family as friend. Spending time with other people’s families gives us insight into ourselves in unique ways. These siblings gave Jesus something he would not have had if he hadn’t chosen to spend time with them.

Friends remind us who we are, even when we forget. When we falter, face huge obstacles, back away from what we don’t want to deal with, and when we are smack in the middle of something we don’t know our way out of, our friends are with us to say out loud, or in our hearts, “Yes, you can. I know you, and I know you can.” In our slim book of Holy Week readings, there is a small notation indicating that we don’t know what Jesus did on Wednesday night, the night before his arrest and imprisonment, but it is assumed he spent the night in Bethany in seclusion with friends. A last night of peace among those he loved and who loved him. 

Image of friends hanging out together

Photo by Sammie Vasquez, via Unsplash.com

So as we come to the conclusion of our wilderness journey, as we enter Jerusalem with Jesus, spend some time in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, I invite you also to look around your own life, take note of those you have welcomed as friends over the years and who are a part of your life today.   

And from author, Will Cather, I offer one final lesson in friendship with which I think Jesus would agree: “Ain’t it wonderful how much people can mean to each other?”


Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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Four Tips for Engaging Young Adults in the Church

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BY JESSY BURCAW |

Editor’s note: the author, Jessy Burcaw, is a 24 year-old young adult member of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. 

Photo by Helena Lopes, via Unsplash.com

These days a lot of people are talking about young adults in church–how to get them there, how to keep them, and how to get them involved. Here are four tips that might be helpful as your church thinks about engaging young adults. 

1) Don’t tell us it is our job to bring in more young adults

Well-meaning people have suggested that I need to bring my friends to church or have implied it’s my responsibility to fix the “young adult problem.” This logic has a few flaws. Most of my friends are Moravian and already belong to a church. My non-Moravian friends either have their own church to attend or are not interested in church. So if young adults don’t bring in more young adults what do we do? Listen to the young adults you do have. Realize it may not be a Sunday School class they want. You may have to try some new things and get out of your comfort zone a bit as a church. Young adults are happy to help but it’s not our job to fix the young adult problem just because we are young adults.

2) Don’t assume we all want to do the same thing

Often times when young adults come home from college and want to be involved in church, people assume they want to work with kids or youth. In my case, as a teacher, the last thing I want to spend my Sunday doing is working with kids. After a long week working with children, I want a break from them. Yes, it is true that many young adults do enjoy working with youth or children but keep in mind we are all different. Millennials are not all the same! We have many gifts and talents that can be put to good use in church. For some it might be playing handbells or singing in the choir. Others might want to get involved with building and grounds and help take care of the church building. Others will organize outreach and mission. Take the time to get to know us and to understand what gifts and talents we might be willing to share. Not only will it make us feel more welcome, it will also make a better church!

Photo by Eric Bailey, via Pexels.com

3) Remember we are adults now too

Many young adults grew up in the church we attend now. That means people remember us when we were children running around after church or when we were teenagers acting cooler than the flip side of a pillow. It also means people sometimes forget we are no longer those 16-year-olds in church because our parents made us come. We are now coming to church because it is a place we want to be. We want to make a meaningful contribution to our church family, but it is a two-way street. Churches are going to have to not just create space for us, but proactively invite us to get involved in meaningful ways. This means people who’ve been in leadership for years might have to move over and let young adults help, which might mean changing “the way we’ve always done it.” Young adults don’t need to run everything, but one day we will be the ones making the decisions. Why not start training us now, let us in on some decision-making, or at least listen to our voices? It’s time to start being intentional about sharing responsibilities with young adults who want to be involved.

4) Don’t panic if we aren’t at church every Sunday

Just because I am not in church every Sunday doesn’t mean I don’t want to be involved anymore. A lot of my friends don’t go to church every Sunday, but they still want to be involved too. Many of us (not all) get more out of mission work and putting our faith into action than we do sitting in church on Sunday morning. Now don’t get me wrong–I enjoy very much going to church and listening to my pastor, but that’s not always enough. I don’t need to sit in church every Sunday to feel close to God. Sometimes I feel closer when I am on the mountaintop at Laurel Ridge singing camp songs, or sitting by the river writing in my journal. The place I felt God’s presence the most wasn’t a church; it was when I sat on the floor of a school in Nepal listening to a child read to me. For many young adults, church isn’t about being in one place to worship or listen to God’s word. Church is walking in the Suicide Prevention and Awareness Walk; church is going to Nepal to teach; church is helping with hurricane relief; church is so much more than a building. So just because you don’t see us in worship doesn’t mean we are never coming back. It just means we are out in the world putting our faith into action.

Young adults do not just represent the future of the church–we are the church right now! Please continue to encourage us, love us, and make space for us as we embrace both old and new ways to follow Jesus in the world.


About the Author

Jessy is a lifelong member of Unity Moravian. She grew up in Winston-Salem and attended Appalachian State University to study Elementary Education. Now she is a 2nd grade teacher in Winston-Salem. She is a proud mother of her fur-baby, Olive. Jessy has a passion for mission work and spent her summer in Kathmandu, Nepal working in a school. She plans to return this summer again to continue working with the school.


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Christ the Chief Elder

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BY THE REV. JOE MOORE |

Photo of communion

Andrew David Cox, the Moravian BCM

This week Moravians around the world celebrate one of the things that makes us unique–our understanding of Jesus Christ as the Chief Elder of the Moravian Church. At a Synod in London in 1741, the Moravian leaders struggled to elect a new Chief Elder. The office had been vacated when Leonard Dober decided that, after having served as Chief Elder for six years, the job had become too much for one person.

Image of Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766)

Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766) | Public Domain Image

In the years between 1735 and 1741, the Moravian Church had grown rapidly from an isolated community in Germany to worldwide mission movement. After coming to the conclusion that no one person possessed the essential characteristics and gifts necessary, the Synod asked the question, “Would not the Lord our Savior be so gracious as to accept this office for himself?”

On September 14, 1741, Jesus Christ was officially named Chief Elder of the Moravian Church. Being in the days before email, text messages, and cellphones, it was decided that time was needed to spread the news around the Moravian world. November 13 was chosen as the day for all Moravians to celebrate the selection of Christ as Chief Elder.

Even now, over 275 years later, many congregations will celebrate Christ as Chief Elder with Holy Communion and/or a lovefeast on the Sunday closest to November 13. For me, having been born and raised in the Moravian church, I have always understood that Jesus is the head of our denomination. However, I’ve never really given it much thought, beyond knowing it as one of those things that makes the Moravian church different from other denominations. But is it something that is still relevant to the Moravian church in 2017? And what does it really mean to claim Christ as Chief Elder?

The Ground of the Unity (the doctrinal statement of the Moravian Church) says, “Jesus Christ is the one Lord and Head of His body, the Church. Because of this, the Church owes no allegiance to any authority whatsoever which opposes His dominion. The Unitas Fratrum treasures in its history the vital experience of the Headship of Christ of 16 September and 13 November 1741.”

Stained glass seal at Olivet Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC | Andrew David Cox, the Moravian BCM

It is clear from this that the Moravian church continues to recognize Jesus as the head of the church and, beyond celebrating it as something from our history with little contemporary relevance, considers it to be an important doctrine. In other words, it is not just something that our Moravian ancestors believed and we remember, but it is also the belief of the Moravian Church today. The language used may be a bit different, as the Ground of the Unity uses the phrase “Head of the Church” as opposed to Chief Elder, but the idea is the same.

It’s important that we understand that Jesus has been and is the head of the Moravian Church. But it is even more important that we understand what it means to recognize Christ as our Chief Elder. First it means that we look to Jesus for guidance, counsel, inspiration, and direction in ALL that we do. We rely on his leadership to help our church to be a reflection of his light in a dark world, we rely on his guidance to allow our lives to be a source of his love in a world filled with hate.

Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur (Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him)

Jesus is the best kind of leader. He is one who knows what it is like, he is one who has seen first hand how hard it is to do what we are called to do. He is one who has seen how dark this world is and how much it needs his light. Jesus is one who knows how much hate there is in this world and how much it needs his love. As we read in Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are.” (Hebrews 4:15)  Another way to say this would be, “For we do not have a Chief Elder who is unable to sympathize with our struggles, but we have one who in every respect has been challenged as we are.”

Jesus has been here, he has done what we are called to do. He knows how to lead us and guide us to be the people he has created us to be and to be the church that he calls us to be. He knows the challenges that we face and he can help us to overcome them and share his light and his love.

Photo of church Seal

Moravian Seal, or Agnus Dei, stained glass window in the Rights Chapel at Trinity Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC | The Rev. John Jackman, CC BY-SA 3.0

That is what it really means to claim Christ as our Chief Elder. It means that we are following the lead of someone who knows the way. On this day, as we celebrate our Chief Elder, as we remember how he loves us and gave his life for us, let us reclaim him as our Chief Elder, as Chief Elder of our church and of our lives. Let us follow him out of the dark and into the light. Let him lead us into love that overcomes hate.


Bio photo of Joe Moore

Photo via the Rev. Joe Moore

 

The Rev. Joe Moore is the Associate Pastor of New Philadelphia Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC.  He has served in team ministry with his wife, the Rev. Kelly Moore, at Palmyra Moravian (NJ), Mayodan Moravian (NC), First Moravian Church of Georgia, and Fries Memorial Moravian (NC). Joe also served as the Chair of the Board of World Mission and as Assistant to the President of the Provincial Elders’ Conference. He is active in camping ministry at Laurel Ridge. (Portion of bio via NewPhilly.org)


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How to Grow Our Faith

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BY THE REV. TIM BYERLY |

Like most of us who grew up in the church, during my childhood and adolescence my faith was simple and innocent. Untested, and thus undeveloped, might be a better description. I listened to sermons and Sunday School lessons about God, the Bible, and my faith. I thought a lot about what I heard and liked believing in Christ. I confirmed my faith and was glad when I did that.

When I left home to attend college, almost everything changed. That included my experience of faith. I still attended church when I stayed on campus for the weekend, and I often attended the daily, evening vespers led by the Baptist Student Union (Wingate is a Baptist school). But these didn’t change my experience of the Christian faith. They pretty much just added to what I was already doing on Sundays back home.

Picture of cross

But there was one other thing that I started doing that made a dramatic difference in my experience in faith. It not only changed the way I looked at faith. It invigorated it in a major way. It changed my life.

This other experience which was new to me and which made such a change in how I lived my faith was interactive gatherings of small groups of Christians where we had the opportunity to talk about our spiritual journeys and the Scriptures. We did this frequently, probably two or three times each week. It was like being at Laurel Ridge Senior High Camp, but for an entire academic year. During the summer I found a similar group back home.

In each of these settings, I was engaged in an exploration of what it’s like to live in Christ. I wasn’t just sitting and listening. All of the members of the group found an openness to their questions and to their stories about their spiritual journeys. I found myself growing in my faith. I discovered gifts of service which I used in those small communities. Others in these communities noticed and affirmed these gifts, and I became aware of gifts in others and affirmed these.

Over the ensuing years, my conviction has only grown stronger that interactive groups of four or five who gather to share their spiritual journeys are essential to spiritual vitality and growth. The church can’t thrive without them.

For decades this need was met through Sunday school classes. They thrived and blossomed. Congregations emerged from them, including several in the Southern Province which were organized in the first half of the 20th century. The Sunday school movement has lost this impact over the past few decades. This isn’t because any shortcomings of this model that served so well for a long time. I think it has more to do with societal changes.

cross picture

Somehow we must find a way to offer opportunities for close, heartfelt interaction about our faith in groups of four or five persons. Peter, James and John were a group of three with which Jesus worked. I suspect that he worked with the others in similar settings. Many of the events in Acts seem to have been informal discussions in groups of only a few. Similar  groups were a precursor to the August 13 experience. And similar bands were a foundation stone for John Wesley’s work that became the Methodist Church. This approach to spiritual life and growth is just as necessary now as it was in each of these examples.

Now, a few questions—

  • Have you ever been involved in a group of four or five, or more persons in which you shared your experience of walking with Christ? If so, what impact did–or does–it have on you?
  • If not, did you ever have such an opportunity? and Why didn’t it work out for you to participate?
  • A lot of people agree that we need this but can’t find the time to make it work. Are you one of those persons? What change would be necessary for you to open up time to do this? Do you think you would gain enough through this experience to make the difficult changes in your schedule worth the effort?
  • What happens next?
    • Read this and move on to something else?
    • Read this and think about it?
    • Read this and do something about it?
  • How can BCM help to make this happen for you?

Questions? Comments? Contact the Rev. Tim Byerly at TLByerly1971@gmail.com

Tim Byerly

The Rev. Tim Byerly has worked with the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries as a Project Coordinator for the Living Faith Small Group initiative. 

Was That Said in Love?

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BY AMY LINVILLE |

“Was that said in love?” I ask in an attempt to bring a sense of lightheartedness to the situation and cease a quarrel between two campers. I know it’s cheesy, but you can only ask them to stop and behave so many times, and it’s a long week. Most of the time, it serves only to bring laughter. But in reality, I hope that this phrase occasionally slips into the mind of the campers as they prepare for bed, reflect during small group, or play “knock-out” on the slab. And the more I hope it for the kids at camp, the more I hope this thought slips into the minds of friends, family, and myself at home.

magnifying glass

I like words. I like to analyze words, study the history of words, search for context of words, and ponder for hours over word choice. I know that most people might not spend as much energy on these pursuits as I do, but I receive a great deal of fulfillment in trying to understand from where our words come. Our words and actions are rooted in our thoughts and emotions. Each piece gives away how we think, process, and feel. The things we say and do offer glimpses into our physical, spiritual, and mental states. My husband knows that many of my words said in anger can originate in hunger (hanger is dangerous and not to be taken lightly). I know that a young camper’s tears and pleading phrases can often come from a place of fear; being away from home for the first time is scary. Perhaps those we see spreading hateful words are really confused, afraid, and maybe a little hangry. Many days, it takes effort and pause for me to ensure that my words are coming from a place of love. I have to be mindful about it.

So, what does it mean to speak, and even act, from a place of love? We all know that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians, 4-7. NIV). This passage from the Bible is probably one of the most quoted, but I know it is not enacted nearly as frequently. To come from a place of love would require patience and a yearning to understand and listen. It would necessitate us to put aside the vanities to which we cling not out of false humility or even a sense of obligation, but from a true desire to care for our whole communities. If the things we said and did were rooted love, would we give up on others? Would we give up on ourselves?

heart tree picture

At camp this past week, we discussed at length how we reflect God’s loves in our words and deeds: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick and imprisoned. I saw the campers reflect God’s love when they laughed with each other, cared for their bodies by going to bed when tired (my favorite thing for campers to do!), spoke kindly to each other, and respected God’s creation. I saw them trying each day to come to the world from a place of love. As the week went on, I asked fewer and fewer campers “Was that said in love?”. I heard, saw, and felt the love in their actions and words. I know it took effort for everyone to pause and work to find that place of love. It’s not easy, but Corinthians doesn’t tell us that love is easy. It tells us that love never fails. Words and actions in love, will never fail to bring us closer to God.

In today’s political, socioeconomic, church, and even weather climate (does this heat make anyone else grumpy?), it becomes ever more important to keep love at the forefront of our thoughts. As we prepare for our Southern Province Synod in less than a year, I hope we can let love guide us. We cannot always say and do the right things, but we can try each day to speak and act in love. Even on the days when we do not like others or ourselves, God has called us to love.


Questions? Comments? Contact Amy Linville at Amy@MoravianBCM.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Amy Linville

Amy Linville is the Interim College Age Ministry Coordinator for the Moravian BCM. She spends her time outside of work taking classes to become a librarian, serving Rural Hall Moravian with her husband the Rev. Aaron Linville, and snuggling her puppy and two cats.

Putting the Hashtag (#) in Faith, Love, and Hope

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

#MoravianStar2015, #MoravianStar2016, #MoravianLenten, #MoravianMoms, #FaithLoveHope, #ThrowbackThursday. You’ll notice on the Moravian BCM social media sites, we like to put strings of words like these at the end of posts. What do all of these have in common? By the way they’re written, they’re hashtags. What is a hashtag anyways? Well, here it is straight from the horse’s mouth (Google definitions):

“hash·tag
ˈhaSHtaɡ
noun

(on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.

‘spammers often broadcast tweets with popular hashtags even if the tweet has nothing to do with them'”

The hashtag is strongly associated with Twitter and reportedly first originated as a social media tool ten years ago on that site. Prior to that, and still for a lot of people, the “#” symbol is known as the “pound sign.” The first hashtag on Twitter was created by social technology expert Chris Messina. According to Hashtags.org, Messina wrote to his followers, asking them what they thought about using the pound symbol to identify specific groups. Hashtags had been previously used in Internet Relay Chats (IRC). Essentially, what hashtags do is they allow a post on social media to be searchable by topic. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they become hyperlinks leading to pages for that respective topic.

Girl on smartphone

Hashtags are functional on both desktop and mobile devices

As of writing, #NSHvsPIT is trending on Twitter. The hashtag identifies tweets about the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup final between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A Twitter user could search “Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins” to find tweets on the topic. But on Twitter, posts are limited to 140 characters, meaning most of the content in a searchable tweet can taken up by the full name of the game. Searching “#NSHvsPIT” should bring up only tweets about the game, and often are more engaging tweets and have more interesting content being shared by people who follow hockey. Their tweets don’t have to spell out the full name of the game, because it is identified by the shorter hashtag. By using the hashtag, hockey commentators don’t have to worry about providing full context for every post, because other fans, by looking at the hashtag, will know what they are tweeting about. The hashtag can save creators from having to sacrifice quality or brevity in content when they feel compelled to give context for content.

This handy functionality of the hashtag was used in the #MoravianStar2015 and #MoravianStar2016 social media campaigns, and every social campaign the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) has done since. On a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram search, if a user searches “Moravian Star 2015,” it’ll bring up all kinds of posts about Moravians, stars, Moravian stars, and the like, because the search is comprised of terms, when separated, are relatively generic and not specific. By stringing the words together without spaces and with a hashtag in front, information about the social media campaign and posts relevant to it are both immediately discoverable. By adding a year to the hashtag, it makes it even more unique, and limits its timeliness. This allows the BCM to find users who purposefully intended to submit content to these campaigns by using the unique hashtag with their posts. Otherwise, we’d have to sort through every other post with Moravians, stars, or Moravian stars and would wonder if someone intended to share the content with us or not.

The promotional Facebook banner for the #MoravianStar2016 social media campaign

Some general rules about hashtags:

  • A hashtag must be a single word preceded by a pound sign (#) with no spaces
    • #FaithLoveHope works, FaithLoveHope# does not work, # Faith Love Hope does not work
  • Hashtags are primarily functional on social media, and are not intended for texting or email
    • However, you can share in any medium what a designated hashtag is, so people can then use, search, or interact with it on social media
  • There are brand-specific hashtags and hashtags everybody uses
    • Coca-Cola uses #ShareACoke to identify their brand’s specific campaign, but everyone uses hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday or #MotivationMonday each week to share memories or words/pictures of motivation
    • Church or ministry pages should develop their own unique hashtags for their congregants to use, as well as capitalizing on common hashtags to boost engagement
  • Always capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag, as #ShareACoke is much easier to read than #shareacoke
  • There are no hard or fast rules as to where to place hashtags–some accounts sprinkle them throughout a post and others at the very end of a post (or both)
  • Try not to use too many hashtags all the time, especially not on Facebook, as it looks cluttered and tacky… try to stick to around five to ten
  • On Instagram, place a double space between your text and your hashtags (if you list them at the bottom), by using a character such as a colon “:” to hold the place of the double space that Instagram would otherwise delete
  • Hashtags will not automatically become hyperlinks if they have special characters in them, but they can end with special characters (a period at the end of a hashtag will not break its link)
    • Example: #FaithLove&Hope will not link to anything on social media, #FaithLoveHope or #FaithLoveAndHope will
  • Posts marked with hashtags typically can not be found by the general public if the account using it posted it with strict privacy settings… for hashtags to be most effective, posts using them generally need to be posted publicly
    • Example: If Ruth Burcaw, with strict privacy settings, posted #Moravian on Facebook, I, being friends with her, could see it and click the hashtag and be taken to a page with all public posts with the hashtag or posts by other friends who used it… but people who are not Ruth’s friend could not find her post

Hashtags are a powerful social media tool. If you’re looking to grow your church or ministry’s page and connect to relevant topics and interested people, hashtags are a must! To get people in the door and doing ministry with us, we need to have faith, love, and hope. But to help people be aware there is a door even to begin with, we need to have #FaithLoveHope.

Other Resources:

Hashtags on Instagram: How many should you use?

Instagram Hashtags in the First Comment?


Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox@mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.