Stepping Out in Faith

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Epiphany 5
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:13-15, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (NIV)

2020 GOALS

Today is our annual meeting. After worship, you are invited to join together in the Fellowship Hall to go through the annual report, evaluate 2019 and look ahead to the rest of 2020. If you’re a guest this morning or new to the church, one of the most important parts of the meeting is our goals. Every year, the Church Board recommends goals for the coming year. At the annual meeting, we evaluate the goals from the previous year and then discuss the goals for the coming year.

To assist in the process, I take some time during me normal sermon time on Sunday morning to give you some more detail about the goals. I started that last week. We did a quick evaluation on how well we had done in accomplishing out 2019 goals and then I presented the goal for 2020. As a reminder, here they are:

1.      To complete an Alpha programme during 2020.

2.      To continue to develop a strategy for welcoming, engaging and retaining parishioners in Cottam United Church.

3.      To build an entertainment stage to the west of the church building.

4.      To double the use of the church building during the day.

5.      To build a storage shed and cage for propane tanks.

Last week, I tackled what is probably the goal that might cause the most discussion because I wanted to give you a week to think about this one. It’s the idea of building a stage to the west of our church as part of the Prayer Garden. I’m not going to go over that one again but the information was also in the Annual Report and I hope you had a chance to look at it.

Today, we are going to go over the remaining four goals for 2020. Three of them are  ministry goals and one of them is a bricks and mortal goal. But before we do that, Let’s ground ourselves in scripture; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NIV) says this:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

In this passage Paul is emphasizing that he did not come to the Corinthians as some great person. He didn’t come with eloquence, power or privilege. Rather he came in weakness and great fear. But he also came with the Spirit’s power and that is key to his ministry. Because of that, he was able to step out in faith, trusting in God to provide everything that was needed to do what God called him to do.

The same applies to us as we look at our 2020 goals. We need to trust in God. But we also need to discern his will for us. If we can get those two things right, if we can discern God’s will and trust God to provide what we need, we will accomplish the mission that has been laid before us in Jesus’ name.

With that in mind, let’s look at our goals. We’ll start with the ministry goals.

ALPHA PROGRAMME

The first stepping out goal is to complete an Alpha programme in 2020. What is Alpha? Alpha has been around for a long time. It’s a Bible study course that was first developed in 1977 but has since gone through various transformations. We actually did some Alpha courses here at Cottam United Church back in the 1990’s. I know that because I found all of the old VHS tapes in the top of the closet in the Albuna Room. If we had something to play it on, we might actually be a little amused at to see what we were wearing back then.

Today’s Alpha is not on video tapes. Everything comes online and we just download the videos. It’s really easy to use. It’s also somewhat like the campaigns that we did a few years ago. We had 40 Days of Purpose, 40 Days of Community, Believe and one or two others. This is kind of the same thing. I’ll say something on Sunday morning. And then we all meet one evening here in the Church. We watch a video, break up into small groups and have a discussion. Each small group has a leader or a facilitator who guides the group through the questions. The one difference between Alpha and the other campaigns that we have done is that Alpha also usually involves food. Sometimes it’s a shared dinner. Sometimes, it’s dessert. It all depends on how the organizers want to structure it. As they say in the training information, there are Alpha groups running all over the planet and no two are exactly the same.

But what exactly is the purpose of Alpha. I pulled this from the Alpha website:

The Alpha Course is created to emphasize the essentials that all denominations agree on. We believe that what unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us. The Alpha Course is an effective form of evangelism when done by and through the local church. By focusing on the essentials of the Christian faith, it opens the door for Alpha to be used in almost any context so that everyone has the opportunity to see their friends’ lives transformed by the gospel.

I can buy into that. This sounds strangely like our mission statement which is to know Christ and make him known. But what it really focuses on over the course of eleven weeks is the key principles of Christianity that are common throughout the church regardless of the denominational, language or ethnic background. The topics are as follows:

  • Is there more to life than this?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • Why Did Jesus Die?
  • How Can I Have Faith?
  • Why and How Do I Pray?
  • Why and How Do I Read the Bible?
  • Who is the Holy Spirit?
  • What does the Holy Spirit Do?
  • How Can I Be Filled With the Holy Spirit?
  • How Can I Make The Most Of The Rest Of My Life?
  • How Can I Resist Evil?
  • Why and How Should I Tell Others?
  • Does God Heal Today?
  • What About The Church?

Now at least some of you detail nuts are going to realize that I said that it is an eleven week course but that there are fourteen topics. That’s right. I believe that’s because there are few of weeks when two topics are covered.

So why do this? Why do Alpha? There are a few reasons. One is that when we do one of these campaigns, it is an opportunity for everyone in the congregation to come together and share in a common curriculum. That’s a good thing. Even more important is that it I an opportunity for people to learn or review some of the basic tenets of our faith. It doesn’t matter whether you are a long time, mature Christians or a new believer. All of us need to look at these things from time to time as a means of growing in faith. And finally, it’s a way to bring new people to Christ. This will be open to our community. It’s not just a Cottam United Church thing. It’s for our community and you will be invited to bring along your neighbours and friends whether or not they are part of this church. Everyone will be welcome.

Finally, when do we hope to run this course? Initially we had hoped to run it this spring but I’m not sure that we can put it together that quickly so it may not run until the fall. But before any of that happens, we have to get a committee together to do the organizing.

WELCOMING, ENGAGING, RETAINING

Here’s our second stepping out goal:

2.       To continue to develop a strategy for welcoming, engaging and retaining parishioners in Cottam United Church.

This is a goal that we had last year. Last week, if you remember, I said that while we made a great start at this goal in 2019, it was a far bigger goal than any of us imagined. That’s because completing this goal actually requires a change in our culture. Two of the key characteristics we need to work on are hospitality and gratitude. I’m not saying that we aren’t those things already but we believe that we can make a lot of improvements in terms of how we express those two key characteristics.

We need to be hospitable to guest and we need to be grateful for those who contribute to the ministry of CUC in large or small ways. We also have to come to a clearer understand of what it means to be hospitable and what it means to show gratitude and we need to be intentional about doing that.

That’s why the Church Board thinks we need to retain this as a goal in 2020. We have just touched the surface 2019 and there is so much more to do.

USING OUR BUILDING

We already looked at goal 3 last week so let’s move on to our fourth goal. It really challenges us to step out:

4.       To double the use of the church building during the day.

This is an interesting goal because, once again, it focuses on reaching out to our community and becoming a hub in Cottam. Remember the hub? The hub is the centre of the wheel from which all things radiate. In this case it’s the love of Jesus. We want to radiate Jesus’ love to our community and one of the ways to do that is let the people of Cottam know that we are a place where they can gather to strengthen this community.

One thing is certain. Good, affordable, quality meeting space is something that is necessary to build any community. Here at CUC, we have the best meeting space in town. It’s a great size. It’s bright. It comes with a good kitchen and washrooms. And it’s 100% accessible.

But here’s our other reality. It is badly underutilized. Our building is well used on weeknights and on Sunday mornings and afternoon. But it is usually empty during the weekdays. Not much goes on here during the week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. except in the offices.

We’d like to change that. I drive past the Kingsville Community Church on Division Road almost every day. They have a sign by the road that tells people what is happening during the week. And there are all kinds of things going on. I’ve seen sewing classes, crafting classes, support groups for people affected by Alzheimer, exercise classes, all kinds of events and activities. It’s done through a group called the Kingsville Community Centre.

I don’t know the relationship between Kingsville Community Church and Kingsville Community Centre but it would be interesting to find out how it works. My hunch is that the church works in partnership with established community agencies that provide programmes that benefit residents of Kingsville. I don’t know how exactly it happens but it had to start with the church making itself open to the community. In fact, when you go to the website for Kingsville Community Church the very first thing you see is a page that says “Our Door Is Open”. The fact that Kingsville Community Centre operates out of it, is a sign that they are serious about keeping their doors open.

Here’s the interesting thing. The reason this idea came up was because we received three or four requests in the past six months asking if our space was available during the week. One of those groups is called Abode. Just this year, Abode has begun meeting twice a month to offer dance fit classes. The target is people with special needs but it is open to everyone. They had their second gathering on Friday morning and there were about thirty people in our hall dancing up a storm. In fact, it seems that they really like to play Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off really loud. But that’s okay because Pam and I were bopping to the beat in at our desks.

Those are the kinds of things we could do. But there are a few question that need to addressed. Here’s one of the key ones: For example, How much should we charge these groups? We’ve had some initial discussions about that and realize that there needs to be some cost for some groups because there is a cost to us. We need to consider the utilities that are used and any clean up that needs to be done. And our guests need to be responsible for those costs. But it has to be affordable especially to non-profit groups who are trying to build our community. Clearly dance fit cannot afford to pay the usual hall fee so we partner with them in ways that make sense to both of us. But just be clear that the goal of this is not particularly to make money. We might do that but, as a minimum, we need to at least break even.

Finally, what would we have to do to double the use of our church building during the day? Honestly, Abode being here every other week just about does. That is how little our space is used during the day. So we can really blow the doors off this goal if we want to.

STORAGE SHED & CAGE

Those are the other three ministry goals. The last goal is a bricks and mortar one. It’s not really about stepping out. It’s just something that we really need to do:

5.       To build a storage shed and cage for propane tanks.

The reason for this is twofold. First, we have things like snow shovels for the winter and gardening tools for the summer and we have no place to put them. It would really be helpful to have a storage shed where we could put all of that stuff so that it is both accessible and out of the way.

The second issue was face is that we have purchase number of propane tanks and burners for the turkey supper. Remember that we now cook a lot of the vegetables outside in a tent. We need a place to store those items. Propane tanks, especially are problematic because it’s not really a good idea to store them inside. I might be wrong but I think it’s actually illegal. The place to store propane tanks is outside so that the wind takes away any propane that may be leaking. Hence the idea is the build a cage beside that garden shed where we can safely store the propane tanks.

Where would we put it? I don’t really know but I’m thinking it would be somewhere near the back parking lot but that’s up for debate. The good news is that a storage shed is easily moved so if it gets in the way, it can always be moved if we discover that put it in the wrong place. They aren’t very expensive and we thought that perhaps we could use some money from the Memorial Fund. After all, we did budget $10,000 of that money for the Prayer Garden and so far, we haven’t use a penny of it and really aren’t expecting to use much this year either. But that’s just one option. There are all kinds of ways to raise a bit of money to pay for it.

So there are the goals for 2020. After worship today, we can all grab a bite to eat and take some time to discuss them. I know that the Church Board is looking forward to hearing what you think as we step out in faith in 2020.

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