Higher Power: the Grand Organizing Designer

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BY LYDIAN AVERITT |

Photo by Grant Ritchie via Unsplash.com

Photo by Grant Ritchie via Unsplash.com

 
“Nothing too religious,” the mom cautioned our Facebook group. “We’re not looking for anything too heavy. More inspirational, or spiritual.”

The mom, whom I knew only slightly, needed a clergy member. Since she didn’t know any, she had asked our group if we had a name to share, but with this caveat.  

A reasonable request, maybe – except that the request was being made on the behalf of her son, and the occasion was his wedding.

At the risk of seeming judgmental, I indulged in a little disbelief. To Protestant Christians, marriage is a sacred promise; in the Bible, Jesus performs his first miracle at a wedding, turning water into wine at Cana. To have a merely inspirational ceremony seemed, to me, to miss the gravity of the commitment. At this most powerful moment, the young man’s family was choosing to send him off into the next phase of life strengthened by …what?

The family in question isn’t alone. According to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan group of experts that provides social science-driven information to the public, slightly more than a quarter of Americans do not necessarily practice a religion, but think of themselves as spiritual. They say that, while religious people follow the dogma of a certain faith, spiritual people are more free to follow their own faith path, believing in inter-connectedness and a vaguely defined higher power, greater than they but without rules or form.1

Pivotal life events aside, just on a daily basis, is feeling that there is a power greater than you – but stopping short of calling that power “God” – ok? In going through life’s trials and adversities, is mere spirituality, with its abstract connection to a “higher power,” enough?

Yes, says Mike Connors, without hesitation. Connors is the director and clinical supervisor for Greensboro, N.C.’s chapter of The Insight Program, an enthusiastic sobriety program loosely based on the venerable Alcoholics Anonymous, and he spoke to a parents’ group I attended recently. ‘Enthusiastic sobriety,’ I found out, means abstaining from drugs and alcohol – with partying. The 13-25 year olds in the program joke around, smoke and act as rebellious, loud and obnoxious as teenagers can, only with a purpose: to replace the false security and confidence many find in addictive substances with the real thing. Since its founding in 1987, the program has helped tens of thousands of teens and young adults beat drug and alcohol addiction. A key component of the recovery process is the belief in a “higher power.”  

Photo of Mike Connors

Mike Connors, Director and Clinical Supervisor, The Insight Program | Photo by Lydian Averitt

“When these kids come into the program, they’re all over the place,” Connors says. “Some have been in active addiction for years. Some are very willing to admit that their life has become unmanageable, others are resistant to the idea. The thing they all have in common is powerlessness in the face of their addiction. So, the solution must be seeking a power that is greater than the individual alone.”

To explain the program’s “higher power” concept, Insight founder Bob Meehan points in his own writing to C.S. Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity. The book’s first chapter – the first step of Lewis’s larger plan to demonstrate that Christianity is truth – never mentions a Christian God;  instead, Lewis first establishes that there is power in the universe greater than humans’, and that the power is good.

As a first step in rehabilitating young lives, that belief is all you need, Connors says.

“When a person enters the program, that higher power is the love for the person that is expressed by the group. Many of the youth feel disenfranchised from school, friends, family, and religion, even those who grew up in a faith tradition. The group becomes their social and psychological support.

“We say, ‘Love within, love without, love in between,’ ‘’ Connors says.

There’s the supportive love the group members express for each other. The accepting love of self the program teaches, in order to combat the destructive self-talk to which many of them have succumbed. The outward-turning love for others that allows them to grow.

“The support of the group is love, which is what God is all about, right?” Connors says. “There are lots of parallels to organized religion, but we don’t teach a certain belief system or put a name on it – why would we? The point is the seeking.”

Even if “the greatest of these is love,” seeking the Lord while he may be found gets trickier. Although the group chooses to call the higher power “God,” the individual participants don’t necessarily mean the God they may have grown up with.

“When they first come in, they’re at their worst, and so it often stands for “get over death.’ That’s as much as they’ll allow “g.o.d.’ to be,” Connors says.

“As time goes by, recovery begins and the support of the group kicks in, and it becomes “group of drunks’ or “group of dope fiends.’  Then, more time goes by, and it becomes “good orderly direction:” are you moving forward in life? Are you turning outward to help people instead of dwelling on yourself? Do you have a goal and a purpose? Are you a good, moral, loving person?”

Finally, Connors says, it becomes an acronym for “grand organizing designer.’

“It’s a process,” he says. “As they recover, an almost existential search takes place. They start to say, ‘ok, I know there’s a power greater than me, expressed by the group’s love for me, but I know there’s something still more.‘ It opens them up to the idea of God. It gets the ball rolling.”

Just as “group of drunks” becomes “grand organizing designer,”  so does the participants’ disenfranchisement yield to belief in a power greater than they, and a very Moravian response starts to take place: faith, that their higher power won’t let them down; hope, that they can begin anew; and love for their fellow members and friends.

The saying on Connors's sweatshirt, "Big Enough," answers the question posed by the program, "Is your God big enough?' | Photo by Lydian B. Averitt

The saying on Connors’s sweatshirt, “Big Enough,” answers the question posed by the program, “Is your God big enough?’ | Photo by Lydian Averitt

“I refuse to give God a name, sex or creed,” Bob Meehan writes. “I do insist that they put a period after God, not a question mark.” 2

Is spirituality enough? Maybe so, as a foundation upon which a higher power can build. Whether named or implied, God’s presence is palpable. As their walk together unfolds, maybe God’s plan for some lives can be more fully told.


 

 

  • What Does it Mean to be Spiritual? Consciousbridge.com. April 9, 2013.
  • Meehan, Bob. Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Meek Publishing, 2000.

 

 


Photo via Lydian Averitt

Lydian Bernhardt Averitt is a freelance writer and editor, and is the coordinator of the family financial planning certificate program at North Carolina A&T State University. She is an amateur musician and a lifelong Moravian who attends First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC. Contact her at Lydian@triad.rr.com.


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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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Let’s Remember Our Moravian College Students

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MAY 11, 2016

As our province’s Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries, it’s my pleasure to spend a lot of time with our college-age Moravians, those eighteen-years-old to their early twenties. Many of our college-age Moravians are in college, while some work, and some do both.

And even though the school year is winding down, let me tell you about our Moravians who are in college. As best we can determine, we have around 300 Moravians from the Southern Province in college. Some attend schools in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania, but most of them attend North Carolina colleges and universities.

College picture for blog 5-10-16

Since our college students are often away at school, they can sometimes be forgotten. It is part of my job to always remember them, and I urge you to remember them as well. Stop by the office and check out my collection of college mugs (as seen in the picture with this article) which represent the schools where our Moravians attend. My job also includes doing all I can to help our students feel connected to the Lord and to the Moravian Church. Some of the ways I keep connections are through correspondences (Facebook messages, emails, texts), visits, offering spring break mission trips, and hosting cookouts during Christmas and summer breaks.

It’s important we do all we can to help our students feel connected to our church families. Here are a few simple ways to remember our college-age Moravians:

  • Know who your college students are and where they attend.
  • Send them church mailings.
  • Send care packages, especially during exam times. This is a great activity for circles and Sunday School classes.
  • Have someone in your church visit them and take them out for a meal.
  • When many of them are home this summer, make the extra effort to let them know you are glad to see them back.
  • Offer opportunities for your college students to get together.
  • When some of them feel called to serve on mission trips, provide prayer support and financial support.

If we do not forget our college students and we are faithful in our service to them, no matter where God’s plan and purpose for their lives take them, they will not forget their church homes! They will not forget our Moravian Church!

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).