I mentioned in an earlier post that I would blog about where we will attend worship while on sabbatical. Yesterday was the first Sunday, and the end of the first week, of my three month break. As I planned for the sabbatical over the summer months, I was praying about where to attend church. I learned some things from the first sabbatical I had ten years ago while at Conewago (the church I served previous to this one). During those three months Doris and I did not worship at the same church on a regular basis, and in the end, I found that I did not find the refreshment in worship for which I had hoped. Sabbatical gives us the opportunity to worship with our kids at their churches, and it gives me the opportunity to visit a number of churches and learn from what they are doing. That is good and what we did the last time. But by doing so, we missed the consistent worship that only happens when you settle in at one spot for a while.
So going into this sabbatical, I knew I needed a place to plug in on a regular basis. But I also wanted to take some time to worship with our kids and to visit some other churches. The answer to this dilemma would be a church that had a Sunday morning worship service and one at another time during the week, like Saturday evening or something. That way, some weeks I could attend church on Sundays with the kids or where a friend preaches, but also have the consistency of being in the same church for worship. You may remember, if you were there, that last Sunday as I outlined some of my hopes for this sabbatical, I talked about the difficulty I have in worshipping in an undistracted way when I know I am up next to preach.
Another criteria for me was to find a church in our community. We are called to live for Jesus so others may know him in this community. It is our home and our mission. There is value in visiting churches in other communities, and we will do some of that, but the place of our worship needs to be in the Ephrata area.
A third criteria was to find a place that was somewhat different from what I experience at ECOB, just for the experience and for my need to be taken a bit outside of my comfort zone. And fourthly, if the church could somehow be aligned with the journey that I see myself on, one of inner healing and spiritual transformation, that would be all the better.
That was my wish list for a place to worship; a rather tall order. Does such a place exist in our area? As I prayed through this I quickly came to realize that the Ephrata Community Church offers all these things. ECC offers some additional benefits, as well. I work closely with their Executive Pastor, Keven Eshelman, on the Ephrata Ministerium and it is also a congregation with with whom we partner on some community projects. Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago while meeting with a colleague (who has been rather close to me during the spiritual journey of the last few years) he mentioned, unsolicited by me, that he felt I should worship at Ephrata Community while on sabbatical. I took that as confirmation that I made the right choice.
So that is where we were yesterday morning for worship. The pastors asked if they should introduce me to the congregation and I asked them not to, at least not now. I want to remain "under the radar" and simply come as an average joe for worship. Our first Sunday there did feel a tad awkward, and it will take a few weeks to feel at home, but that is OK and in the end, it will meet most, if not all, of the hopes I had for a place to worship. (Amazingly, I did not know a single one of the songs they used for worship, even though one was by one of my favorite artists, Misty Edwards.) It did feel really good just to come to worship where hardly anyone knew me and no one had any expectations of me. I could worship, meditate, read my Bible, and have no other cares. Wow, this will be a great three months.
On another note, we left from church yesterday for our two week road trip to meander the Seaway Trial. Last night we stayed in Wilkes Barre and tonight we will be staying in the Adirondacks, and then Tuesday we will arrive at Massena, NY, which is the northeastern end of the trail. (Google Seaway Trail to learn more.)
We got into town early enough yesterday to catch the movie "Julia, Julia" last night. Doris has been wanting to see it, so we went and I was not disappointed. The movie is really two stories; one about how cooking legend Julia Childs begins her cooking career and the other about a contemporary young woman, Julia Powell, who decides to cook through Childs' cookbook in one year. While doing this she blogs about her experience and ends up writing the book by the same name as the movie.
The movie is a fun watch, but more importantly, for me it also carried a spiritual meaning. Even though Julia Powell had never met Julia Childs, she commits herself to following her step by step via a book she had written. Sound familiar. As Julia Powell does this, she talks and blogs about how she feels Julia Childs' presence and about how she carries on conversations with her and about how Childs has changed her life. In the end the young Julia is a transformed person, kinder, more appreciative of life, less of, in her owns words, a "b----." What a metaphor for Christian discipleship.
I encourage you to watch the movie, now or when it comes out on DVD or makes it on TV, and think about the parallels into our life as disciples and disciple makers.
Enough for now