Cutting Paper Dolls: Building for Ministry

file-6My grandfather used the expression, “cutting paper dolls” which referred to a process which was a cross between planning and dreaming. One could “cut paper dolls” without yet committing oneself to anything; it was a way to ask questions and dream of a trip or life change.  At the end of the process, a decision would be made to go forward or not. If the idea was a bust or it never happened or morphed into something else, that was fine.  New adventures always started with cutting paper dolls.

Since Broad Bay voted to hire Barba and Wheelock, the building committee (Jonathan Clowes, Brian Scheuzger (co-chairs), Maryann Guernsey, Kathy Osborne, Linda Brandt, Joe Russano, and myself) has been “cutting paper dolls.” Material from last year’s church meetings was complied. People were interviewed regarding the use of every room in the building and the results sent to Barba and Wheelock. The building committee met with Nancy Barba and John Turk for a spirited conversation about their initial drawings and Broad Bay’s core mission; changes were made.  Second and third drafts were reviewed and after more conversations about who we are, additional changes were requested.

Throughout the process, the building committee focused on the core mission of the church, asking what God is calling us to be and do. I’m excited. The committee is listening hard to one another, especially where we offer differing perspectives. With the guidance and questions of good design professionals, ideas keep improving and our thinking about Broad Bay’s mission gets sharper.

Broad Bay Church moved to 941 Main Street fifteen years ago and our roots in the community have deepened. For example: backpacks to the Miller school, concerts, weekly AA meetings, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) clinics, funerals, dinners, restorative justice circles.  We partner with other organizations and offer the use of the building to community groups.

I have stood outside before a funeral or concert and tried to tactfully guide people to the ramp; At every service and event, I hold my breath as I watch people go up and down the stairs.  I have waited and prayed while the ambulance is summoned after accidental falls and have witnessed too many other near misses. Every time I experience the bathroom under the stairs, I am both grateful for my flexibility and marvel at that unique space. (Yes, I am willing to give that up!)  Daily asthma medication helps me to breath in the basement while others have chosen to avoid the space entirely. Some struggle to prepare food and clean up in the kitchen.

Our identity and mission focus is clear. We are rooted in the community, engage community partnerships, and welcome a diverse group of people into our midst. Outside, our walkway, bench, Anticipate Miracles boulder, and Help Yourself Shelf reflect those commitments. The building committee, under the guidance of Barba and Wheelock has worked to be sure that both the inside and outside feel and function of the building reflects our mission. A building which is inviting, safe, accessible and flexible could expand our community partnerships while demonstrating God’s extravagant welcome.

The architectural drawings are on the way to a cost estimator who will add numbers  to the project.

On Wednesday night, October 18, at 6:30 pm the building committee invites you to join them in “cutting paper dolls.” Nancy Barba, architect, will join us to share the results of the collaboration between the building committee and her firm.

Whatever we decide to do in terms of repairs and renovations to the building, I am convinced that the process of working closely with such a competent design firm has been worth it. I’ve sensed the Spirit in the process of “cutting paper dolls” as the building committee has focused on our core mission and dared to dream beyond what is to what could be.

God is still speaking.

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Soul at Work

It was a beautiful summer evening.  While on vacation, we pulled into an outdoor take-out place with lots of people waiting to place their orders.  We joined the line which moved quickly.  The people ahead and behind us were cheerful; the staff person taking our order enthusiastic.  Service was quick.  Tables were spotless and the staff cheerful and energetic as they worked HARD.   Food was excellent.  It was a pleasure to be there.  I wondered how they did it.

Margaret Benefiel in her book Soul at Work writes about how work environments can be strengthened and transformed by bringing tools of spiritual practices and discernment to the workplace.  She studied non-profits and corporations  that articulated values beyond profit.  In times of economic downturn or challenges, they made decisions based on their values.  They treated one another well and it was reflected in the service they offered.

Who are the leaders and employers in our midst who embody your values?  Who are the business and non-profit leaders who take the time to nurture the spiritual core within themselves as well as the people with whom they work?   How does your soul nourish others at work?   Are there business or non-profits or people who make your heart sing?

On Sunday, I will tell the story of one corporate manager’s use of a Disney toy to bring sanity and humor to work.   See you in church or at work.

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Holy Ground: Memorial Services

My family and a few close friends gathered to bury the cremains of my sister who died over a year and a half ago. The minister said a few words about death and grief as we sat on folding lawn chairs at the edge of the cemetery. I didn’t hear the words; instead I felt the sorrow, the sun on my face, and my husband’s hand on mine. Others told me the minister’s words were wise and beautiful. One even commented that the words were real; there was nothing that seemed unbelievable.

I am grateful for the rituals around death. As a culture, we are in a state of flux around death.  More and more people are forgoing public memorials or even private rituals.  Fewer people are attending services. The church has too often failed to work with families to create sacred space that is comfortable for people from a variety of faith traditions or no faith tradition—a service which reflects the life and the culture of the deceased.

At their best, funerals and memorial services provide a way to offer and receive comfort, to recognize the beauty and frailty of life, and to pause to reflect and grieve.

I stood at the back of the Broad Bay Church as people slowly filed by the front pew to greet a grieving family. Time slowed and I sensed a holy power as one by one over 100 people touched, hugged, and spoke to a full row of family members. Tears were shed. Eye contact was made. Outside a people stood and talked with one another.  I was standing in a holy place.

Memorial services and funerals are sacred interfaith events. Creating holy space for grieving people with many different understandings of God is among the most sacred work I am privileged to do.

Share your story of a memorial service that mattered in the comment section below.

View a 2015 post on memorial services

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What if we believed in our ministries?

On Tuesday night, after a sumptuous feast of lasagna, salad and strawberry shortcake, Tuomi Forrest, Partners for Sacred Places, and Susan Lewis and Peter Heinrichs from Full Harvest Fundraising spoke about the power of a capital campaign to build relationships and strengthen ministries. Broad Bay has been recognized by the National Fund for Sacred Places, a program of Partners for Sacred Places in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

As part of my introduction to their presentation on Tuesday, I shared the following observations.

It was 33 years ago that the Broad Bay Congregational United Church of Christ was welcomed into the United Church of Christ.

It was 15 years ago that the Broad Bay Church purchased the building and walked up the hill carrying the cross and candles. Since then,

We fixed a water line,
Restored an organ,
Decreased the mortgage,
Repaired a roof,
Replaced a chimney,
Painted the fellowship hall,
Renovated the office,
Re-did the side yard walk way,
Fixed the ceiling and painted the walls in the sanctuary.

All this while worshiping weekly, educating our children, and reaching out into the wider community. With virtually every accomplishment, we’ve acted stunned that we pulled it off.

*             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *

In my family, when we did something well and received outside praise, the response was often, “you’ve got them fooled.”

Sometimes I wonder if that is the attitude at this church.

Broad Bay is a poster child for the Parishes of Promise. “Really.  You must be mistaken.”

“You are doing such creative ministries.” “They don’t seem creative to me.”

Someone stops me on the sidewalk to say, “You are the community church.”  “huh”

At the concert, a community member says, “I am proud of you.” “We just invited people to perform.”

Will you be part of an article on small church vitality?  “Yes, but do you really mean us.”

The National Fund, a partnership between Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historical Preservation, chose Broad Bay as one of 14 churches in their inaugural program. They believe strongly enough in us to give us a planning grant, consulting services and a matching grant of up to $250,000. “What in God’s name were they thinking?”

What if we noticed the strengths in our ministries as clearly as the folks from Partners for Sacred Places? What if we really believed we could fix the building and strengthen our community ministries? What if we really believed that our ministry is transforming our lives, the lives of those in our community and reflecting God’s light and love into our world?

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What is God Doing Now?: Us and Them

The early church had a problem.  The widows were being neglected. So they called a meeting and created a committee of good people to do the work and free the rest of the community for the fun stuff of prayer and sharing the word.  The spirit was so strong in Stephen that in addition to serving the widows, he was “full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”  Stephen did both–ministry within the community and outreach to the others.  It was not an either/or proposition. And people were transformed.

All of us are invited into the work of prayer and sharing the story–the story of how we see God at work in the world—whether at the booth in the parking garage, a chance encounter while waiting for a friend, or a new friendship with someone who needed a ride.

Talk to anyone who has grieved or known trauma or cared for sick family members.  They have stories of people filled with a spirit who’ve made all the difference.  A phone call. A hug. A gift. A listening ear.  Talk to people who have glimpse God in music or the outdoors or a book or even a sermon.

Who are the people in our midst/your midst who are filled with a spirit that touches you?  Where are they?  How do we share that?  How do we nurture that in one another?

The Broad Bay Church covenant and vision statement is about partnering with the wider community.

Discernment/Questions to take to God

“Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”  Acts 6:8

Faith Communities always are listening for God—always discerning what it means to be faithful to the beckoning of the Spirit.  Broad Bay’s covenant and vision statement include the wider community.

Questions for prayer and reflection

“How can the Broad Bay Church effectively share God’s love and justice, deepen connections to others, and better serve as a sanctuary to the people of the congregation and the Waldoboro community?”

Who are the “Stephens” in our midst who are:  “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” &“full of faith and the Holy Spirit”?

Where is God beckoning to you/us?

In 1984, Broad Bay established this covenant:

We covenant with each other to worship together, to educate ourselves and our children in Christian experience and freely and responsibly to accept God’s continuing revelation. We further covenant to serve our neighbors in the Broad Bay region and around the world both directly and through our affiliation with the Midcoast Association of the United Church of Christ. We therefore join in fellowship as the Broad Bay Congregational UCC.

Vision Statement (Approved 2008)

Broad Bay seeks to serve God and follow Christ as a progressive church in the greater Waldoboro area. Broad Bay’s ministry is to the community at large. We welcome people in times of crisis and celebration; seek partnerships with other community organizations, and work to share God’s love and acceptance. We welcome and celebrate people of every age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, economic circumstance, mental, and physical ability to the spiritual life of the church as we join in sharing the life, leadership, & ministry of Broad Bay.


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What is God Doing Now?: The Road to Waldoboro

Between now and Pentecost, the assigned readings (Narrative Lectionary) focus on the early followers of Jesus. Their questions and challenges seem almost eerily relevant to the life of the Broad Bay Church.   What is God doing now?

After the resurrection, two travelers were on the road to Emmaus–baffled, confused, and wondering what really happened to Jesus.   A stranger joined the conversation.  It was Jesus, though they didn’t recognize him until they shared a meal.

I invited people to share accounts of recognizing Jesus in our own lives. Several spoke during worship about surprising chance encounters; the conversation continued into the coffee hour.  Where do you recognize or glimpse Jesus in your life?  How do we build a church that honors, celebrates and responds to the surprising encounters with the Risen Christ?

Risen Christ, Open our eyes to your presence as you walk with us.  Show us how to follow you. Amen.

Next week: Us and Them (Acts 6:1–7:2a, 44-60)


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Holy Week: Jump in

A week to keep our hearts open:

To pain and suffering,
joy and hope,
loss and grief.

A week to open our hearts to uncertainty–places that are not black and white.

A week to keep our hearts open to pain and suffering and injustice whether children poisoned in Syria or children hungry in Waldoboro.

It is too easy to become numb—numb to pain and injustice. When numbness takes over, we live in a fog and lose an awareness of the presence of God.

We worship an incarnational God who became human and knows suffering and joy.

As Christians, our task our call is to take it all in—joy and sorrow.

–To see the blind man in front of us.

–To seek help from the Samaritan at the well—the foreigner at the well.

–To welcome the sinner—the prostitute, the abused, the sick, the lame, the imprisoned as one who may recognize Jesus before we do.

–To hear the pain of people in this nation and in this community—whether or not we agree with their political slant.

The gift of this week is that we journey with Jesus through joy and celebration today, to a bittersweet last supper, to the anguish of denial, betrayal, and crucifixion, to the amazement of the empty tomb and signs of new life.

This is the week, when we are invited to see it all with open eyes and to reaffirm that suffering and love so often go hand in hand.

This is the week when we remember that God loves and laughs and suffers with us.  Amen.

From a sermon preached on Palm Sunday 2017. Broad Bay is hosting services at 7 pm on Maundy Thursday (April 13) and Good Friday (April 14).  See you at Broad Bay.

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