Two core components of the Shift initiative are building relationships and sharing resources. One of the ways we are doing both of these things is through telling our stories and getting to know what our various congregations are doing. This story was shared recently by Carl TenPas, member of Our Shepherd UCC in Howards Grove and a former participant of Lay Academy. Carl paints a hopeful picture of a congregation involved in its community and sharing God’s peace, hospitality and love with our world.
Perhaps you also have a story you’d like to share about how your congregation is embracing a shift from maintenance to mission. Stories can be sent to Tisha Brown.
We at Our Shepherd United Church of Christ in Howards Grove are a church seeking to make the shift from maintenance to mission. The members of our 30-year-old congregation come from numerous backgrounds and denominations. We are liberal and conservative. We are young and old.
We join together in faith, trust and worship. Our ability to do this is based on our open attitude and love. We welcome families, singles, millennials, anyone! Each one finds a home, a community of faith, in which to grow and share. All are valued and find a particular place to be involved.
How do we do this in our setting? We work hard to be open to their interests, their lives, their challenges and joys, and seeing everyone as a child of God wanting to be seen and heard and loved. We serve with joy and, sometimes, a raucous sense of humor!
Whether it’s music, teaching, mission or leadership we believe in putting faith into action: helping those less fortunate, participating in wider church activities such as mission trips to Pilgrim Center or creating prayer shawls to surround with prayers those who are ill or hurting.
We encourage one another to reach out into the community, individually as well as a congregation. Supporting Meals on Wheels, the food pantries, backpacks for school children, and knitting newborn hats for the hospital are just a few ways our members share their personal calls. We look for ways to meet a particular need there might be in our community. One way we do this is through our Vacation Bible School program. Children with special needs are encouraged to attend and find a summer community to connect with. Yoga classes, scouts and other groups are welcomed on a regular basis.
We encourage each other to explore interests and talents and then share those with the whole congregation so we can grow together in new ways. We are not a “No” church or a “we have never done that before” church. We are a “how will this idea work, and what can we do to use it to feed us” church.
We take seriously the risk to move beyond our walls and go out from this place into the world as the faithful.
We find joy in who God has called us to be.
Carl TenPas, Grateful Church Member