I am reminded of my old friend George Bullard’s description of a healthy, wholistic church. George would describe a healthy church as having “good Gospel, good faith, good community, and good works.” I would even say such is true of a regional ministry or a denominational ministry. But in the brittle times we live in individuals and churches choose which one or two of the four sides of the prism they will choose to engage and live out. It is what I have begun to call the “cut and paste hermeneutic”. We accept from Christ’s life and instruction, what we find most comfortable to receive, and place aside that which does not or does meet our word view.
Some set aside Jesus words, “I am the way, the truth, and life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” All of Jesus’ “I AM” statements challenge us to proclamation, and faith. Some set aside, “I was hungry and you didn’t feed me, naked you didn’t cloth me, in prison you didn’t visit me, and a stranger and you didn’t welcome me in.” “What you have done for the least of these, you have done it to me.” And maybe we wrestle with Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God being near and that the Kingdom of God is upon us, because to welcome the reign of Christ calls us to a greater identity, joy, and accountability then we could ever create for ourselves in this world or the next.
In our fallen and limited humanity, we purposely choose to, or drift into a “cut and paste hermeneutic”. I wonder if we cut and paste Jesus, because to aspire to live fully as a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, we must inevitably accept Christ’s authority in our lives and churches, when our nature and our culture, idolizes individual autonomy. We are tempted to search for the Christ who is compliant with our thoughts, preconceptions, and ideology, rather than kneel before Christ as Lord of all humanity and creation. We struggle to bring every thought captive but find it convenient to allow our thoughts to simmer in their own autonomous juices, eating the apple over and over again. As Leonard Sweet aptly points out in one of his older books, only Christ is the true North Star.
The challenge in an information saturated age, where media caters to its “customer base” is to answer the question, who and what is forming Christ’s church and the souls that compose this church? I propose the antidote is the timeless, classic journey of discipleship and spiritual formation. Can anyone in the institutional church, what some call the “visible church” really argue with that? From this journey, attempting to live out our imperfect best, the future is really about having no cause but Christ, and the welcoming of his transforming presence for individual, church, and culture.
As a Christian, I have come to believe that a foundational principle is to live for the sake of others, as Christ died and rose for me. There is the timely timeless Christian ethic of disadvantaging oneself for the sake of others. I am reminded of this when I see the sacrificial lives of pastors, spouses, and even families. When I read the histories of reformers and evangelists, missionaries and saints, Christian leaders of all walks, there is a common thread of having no cause but Christ. In Luke 10, when Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God being near, he references both the blessing and the rejection of its nearness. There are people of peace who receive the Good News, the reign of Christ, and those who reject and send the 72 away. One of the challenges that face the American church is recognizing our selective rejections and acceptances. We are seduced into approaching Jesus like we do the Golden Corral.
Occasionally, I have been accused of being an ecclesiastical idealist, and maybe I am. I confess I lack patience with dawdling bureaucracy and institutional inertia, yet I believe any ministry can only be of “good gospel, good faith, good community and good works” by desiring, and knowing the fullness of Christ. Embracing this fullness, the widening of tunnel visions, the accepting all of who Jesus is, is the future’s pathway, as it has always been since the day He rose. I keep praying that Christ continues to form our historic association of churches. I trust Christ’s Spirit will make us passionate, compassionate, and faithful.
In Jesus name,
Kathleen Blackey: How A Ladies Tea Can Help Us Learn To Be A Church Family All Over Again
Just a few weekends ago the church I serve hosted a Ladies Tea. To my knowledge we have never had one before. Honestly, I had never been to one before. We did not have an agenda. We had time to fellowship. It was mostly an excuse to gather together. Over the past two years we haven’t done that enough. We wanted to keep those most vulnerable in our community healthy, so we loved our neighbors by limiting our gathering. But we missed it so much.
Now we are learning how to be a church family all over again. It starts slowly, like with a Ladies Tea, but steadily we can grow together into something beautiful for Jesus. It will most likely look different from what we had before, but we can be a light for Jesus nonetheless.
I’ve spoken with other Christians who have shared similar experiences of trying to figure out how to be a church after all that has happened these past two years. I hear nervous voices as we enter unfamiliar territory; however, it’s a great opportunity to reflect and get creative in how we share the love of Jesus in our communities.
Here are three ways that we can move forward in being the church in our communities:
Want more resources to get a jump start on creativity in your church? Our friends at Fresh Expressions just had their Gathering, and they’ve collected their best stuff, which can be purchased here.
Church buildings in New England are closing. About 10 years ago, one study of New England churches predicted over 1,000 church buildings would be closed within a decade. Of course, this prediction was made long before anyone thought of COVID. Under Vermont and New Hampshire statutes, when a church votes to dissolve or abandons its property and assets, these revert to the ownership of the founding denomination. ABC-VNH have received several properties over the last ten years. Sometimes properties are in such condition, our only option is to sell. On other occasions we receive a property, which can be used for worship and the re-planting of a Christian community.
Last year, we were notified by the NH Attorney General’s office that we had received ownership of the Dorchester Community Church building. Two remaining members turned over the keys to the ABC-VNH office. As of this last Easter Sunday, we rejoice that Roger and Betsy Wotton unlocked the doors, having placed some signage about the community, welcomed 19 people to worship! The enthusiasm was such, that an initial plan is to hold worship in this church building once a month, while Roger and Betsy continue to grow a “dinner church” in the wider community. Our gratitude to Roger and Betsy for accepting this new mission in a community of only 400 people. We ask God to bless this new ministry, and anticipate the Holy Spirit is already at work in a small village. Please pray for this new ministry.
Below are pictures of Easter Sunday Worship!
United Church of Warner hosted an Easter event last month. They referred to the event as “Easter Jam – Trunk-or-Treat with an Easter Twist.” They had various stations with candy and small toys (many contained within plastic Easter eggs), a craft table where kids could make a set of bunny ears, free raffles and the Easter Bunny. They were blessed to have 55 children attend the event.
Their hope is that as we have these sort of events, over time they can become more closely connected with the community. Their goal is to use these events to slowly get to know more people, and ideally, over a number of years, help some people to become more open to church and exploring Jesus.
Camp Sentinel: May 2022 Update
Greetings ABCVNH churches!
We are excited for the upcoming summer ahead and thankful for your support and prayers. HERE is a video update from Kevin Van Brunt "Pk", the director of Camp Sentinel.
Summer weeks are filling up quickly and we wanted to remind you sign ups are open.
Overnight Camp Weeks: (Sunday - Saturday)
BG1: July 3rd – July 9th *
BG2: July 10th – July 16th
BG3: July 17th – July 23rd *
BG4: July 24th – July 30th
* two week camp option
Teen Camp (13-16)
TC Sunday August 7th - Friday August 12th
Day Camp Weeks: (Monday-Friday)
DCJ: June 27th – July 1st
DC1: July 4th – July 8th
DC2: July 11th – July 15th
DC3: July 18th – July 22nd
DC4: July 25th – July 29th
DC5: August 8th - August 12th
(LA) Little Adventures $210 Ages 5-8
This camp is the perfect way to introduce young campers to a Sentinel summer camp experience, with three days and two nights of exciting camp activities. For parents who would like to be on-site, check availability in our Pines Family Camping Area by calling the camp office. Arrival: Sunday, June 26th 3pm; Departure: Tuesday June 28th 10am
(TC6) Teen Camp $565 Ages 13-16
During this camp program teens will learn the importance of Christian friendships, while removing distractions (TV, video games, and social networking) allowing them to further unplug and build relationships face-to-face. Trained staff with a heart for teens will mentor the campers throughout teen specific activities and a relaxed schedule to expand their faith through the investigation of themselves, each other, and God. Campers will learn how God is relative to teens of this generation. Arrival: Sunday, August 7th 3pm; Departure: Friday, August 12th 10am
(L12,34) LEADERS $850 Ages 14-16
This two-week program allows teens to develop Christian leadership skills and learn the importance of teamwork through a variety of activities around camp. Activities include trust exercises, an afternoon on our high ropes course, a canoe trip across Dan Hole Pond and a night on Sentinel Ledges in a Yurt.
Arrival: Sunday, July 3rd 3pm; Departure: Saturday, July 16th 10am
Arrival: Sunday, July 17th 3pm; Departure: Saturday, July 30th 10am
(AC) Adult Camp $200 Ages 55+
An adult camp for the 'young at heart'! A relaxed schedule makes for a great three days of rest and renewal. Participants stay in the lodge or in cabins. Great programs, food, and fellowship!
Arrival: Sunday, June 26th 3pm; Departure: Wednesday, June 29th 10am
Camp Pastor: Dean Stiles
For more information and other program offerings or sign up
Why Camp Sentinel?
Hear from our director and some of the staff in our latest video update.
Scholarships for camp available
Rekindle Curiosity is a program through the state of New Hampshire to help families with up to $650 in camp fees.
VERY IMPORTANT: This is first come first serve, so please go on today.
(Click "Camp Sentinel")
When you do, also "ENROLL" for your summer 2022 program at www.campsentinel.org/
Want to host your own retreat at Sentinel?
We will work with you to plan the perfect retreat tailored for your church or organization. Contact us today at email@example.com or give us a call at (603) 539-4839. We would love to show you around the grounds, and connect over a cup of coffee.
Pines Family Camping
Come experience the stillness of the grounds, our mile of water-frontage on crystal clear Dan Hole pond, and a great family-centered atmosphere. Find your site at campsentinel.org/pines
Wixson Ministry Retreat
The Wixson Ministry Retreat at Sentinel is a two bedroom/one bath cabin with a full kitchen and comfortable living room. The Wixson Ministry Retreat is available to pastors, missionaries and lay people who are directly involved in ministry, along with their household families for a donation. See our availability at campsentinel.org/calendar To book contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to seeing you this summer!
29 Sentinel Lodge Rd. Center Tuftonboro, NH 03816
Our mission is to create a welcoming environment for Christian relationship building and spiritual renewal. Within the stillness of God's creation and through the guidance of the staff, people are moved from discovery into authentic relationships with others and with Jesus Christ.
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