Step Up: Presence

Step Up: Presence

The October tradition at Pacific Beach UMC is to explore our Stewardship commitments. Stewardship is the way we think of our faithful support of the ministries that take place as a part of this vibrant congregation. In the United Methodist tradition, we see this as: prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

When it comes to presence, we can see very clearly the impact we have on others. A popular phrase among my Clergy colleagues is, “a ministry of presence.” It’s the idea that sometimes just being with someone when they’re experiencing something challenging is perfect. There’s no pressure for the right words or the right timing or the right expression of care, because in those moments just being there is enough. Sometimes just being there is perfect.

We might all be able to think of times when someone was present for us at the right time. We might be able to think of times when someone was absent, and that absence was particularly tangible.

The power of our presence is real and it has real meaning both for ourselves individually and for the communities that we are a part of.

Acts 2:42-47
Community of believers
42The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44All the believers were united and shared everything. 45They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

Consider these questions:

  1. Can you think of a time when someone’s presence was particularly meaningful to you? What did it mean? How did you feel?
  2. Can you think of a time when someone’s absence was particularly difficult for you? What did it mean? How did you feel?

Post-sermon follow-up on 10/10

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).

I confess that in following up on Sunday’s time in worship, I am feeling a bit dismayed. We noted during our exploration of Presence that our congregation has experienced a bit of a downward trend over the last several years, and so it is with sadness that I realized that our attendance this past Sunday was the lowest since the July 4th weekend when we celebrated a single outdoor worship service.

To be clear, my emotional reaction about this is not about me (at least not completely). My disappointment is that I understand what an amazing community of human beings gathers here, and I want more and more people to be able to experience the joy and safety and support and love that can be experienced in this remarkable place.

We heard from Hope A. about the importance of being present (in both the physical and attentive ways to do so) in this faith community. I invite you to think through how being present in this faith community has made a difference for you in a tangible way. Then consider how your presence in this faith community can make a difference for someone else in a tangible way.

Online resources:

  • Website for the Leadership Institute including schedule and speakers from the event: click here.
  • Midnight Oil Media, the worship media company founded by Jason Moore, who I spoke about briefly and with whom I am working on an upcoming worship series: click here.
  • Story from People magazine referenced in Sunday’s sermon: click here.
  • Facebook’s crisis response page in response to the act of domestic terrorism in Las Vegas: click here.
  • Local story of the community response: click here.

Consider these questions:

  1. Does your week feel different depending on whether or not you come to church on Sunday?
  2. How do you feel most supported in your day-to-day life?
  3. How do you feel most supported when you are facing crisis?
  4. Where does your faith community fit into these last two questions? Are you satisfied with where your faith community fits in?


  1. Hope Anderson

    My cousin Michelle was present at my mom’s funeral. When I saw her, I grabbed her hand and asked Michelle and Aunt Joyce to sit in the front pew with the immediate family. I was so grateful for her shoulder when the prelude pushed me into tears– the first I’d cried since Mom passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s. The music was from Phantom of the Opera and it reminded me of the time Mom took us all to see it at the Music Center in LA.
    Now I treasure this memory because Michelle passed away in her 50’s and that may have been the last time I saw her. Sometimes showing up is enough. Sometimes it’s everything.

  2. Mark Berry

    Physical presence is important. But there is also the aspect of “mental” presence: where is my attention, my focus, my engagement? I can be physically present but absent emotionally. Conversely, I can be “present” to a person or to the church when my thoughts, energies, or prayers are focused there, even if I am not physically there at the moment.

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