During the Lenten season, we took important time evaluating both the wilderness of the world and our own spirituality. In doing so, we noted that the wilderness is full of temptation; that we sometimes need an intervention to remind us that we are God’s children called into God’s image; that a program and guide are available as we seek to grow in our spirituality; that spiritual recovery is possible even though the journey may be long; and that God’s promise of light and hope is ever-present.
Note: If you’d like to re-visit these sermons (or visit for the first time), you can find them on our website at this link.
Something that I think is necessary for our spiritual growth is engagement. Pastor Christopher has encouraged our engagement in worship, recalling his faith development in congregations that regularly offered feedback during the message. He has helped us to see the Spirit in responses of “Amen” and even the raising or clapping of hands.
Another way we engage in our spirituality together is in our conversations during Questions of Faith. Members of this congregation engage in spiritual formation by asking difficult questions and by engaging in authentic conversation. Our children are given the space to ask their own questions and to respond with their own unique ideas during our children’s time during worship.
Even so, we may have noticed that there are some Sundays when our pews seem to have a bit more room. According to our attendance statistics, our average worship attendance was down in 2017. Average attendance in 2017 was 162 per week, and in 2016 was 169. While this reduction is slight, I find it interesting that our engagement outside of Sunday morning worship has seen some increase.
Over the course of the last year, new groups were formed that explore our weekly scriptures and ask challenging questions about our faith and our spirits and our souls. We have offered community workshops to teach about LGBTQ inclusion, about violence in religions, about Lenten practices, and about the influence of Easter of the art of Carl Fabergé. In the publication of weekly sermon previews (and follow-ups) each week, we are seeing some limited engagement on our social media pages and on our website. We continue to invite PB UMC participants to check-in on favorite social media sites when attending Sunday morning worship and other PB UMC events.
These are good and faithful ways to engage! These are formative groups and questions that help us to nourish our minds and our souls! These are important methods by which we can share our faith with our digital communities!
And just as we stepped up our commitments in the Fall with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, these many methods of engagement are ways that we can step up into fuller and more profound spirituality.
I was speaking with a social media consultant recently, and he told me a story about driving past a new coffee shop. He said that he wasn’t sure about whether or not he wanted to try it out, so he looked at their social media profiles. Not only was this coffee shop good about sharing information on various digital channels, but the public responded through “reviews” and “shares” and “likes” and “comments.” It was the engagement of others that caused him to be a faithful and regular customer.
How are you willing to step up your engagement with this community of faith? How are you willing to grow spiritually or intellectually or both? If you are a regular social media user, how are you willing to engage digitally? Are you willing to respond to upcoming questions and surveys made available in worship and/or our weekly email?
As a community of faith, we can connect and grow in wonderful and life-giving ways. Engagement is a key to this connection and growth!