Thursday, June 22, 2017

Know More About Jesus

Each Sunday at Brighton First, as worshipers enter the sanctuary they receive a Connection Card. All are encouraged to complete the card providing the minimum of a name. The Connection Card allows members of our faith community to update contact information and sign up for ministries. For our first-time guests, the card is Brighton First's initial connection. We receive contact information and guests indicate their interests.

One great benefit of the Connection Cards is that regular attenders and those new to the church have the opportunity to indicate their interest in baptism, church membership and/or "knowing more about Jesus." Several baptisms in 2016 and 2017 were initiated through comments on the Connection Cards. The 15 invitations sent for Brighton First's summer membership class went to those who indicated an interest on their Connection Cards. The is true for membership classes last fall and this spring.

Since we began using the Connection Cards one year ago, I have been delighted to have the opportunity to sit with people, the majority new to Brighton First, and talk about Jesus. I am privileged to journey with people who are working to connect faith in Jesus Christ to their daily lives.

This last week I met at a coffee shop with a new attender and had the opportunity to hear how this person's life came to intersect with the faith community at Brighton. Why? Because the person worshipped at Brighton First and indicated on the Connection Card a desire to know more about Jesus.

It's surprising to think that a small act on Sunday morning, filling out a Connection Card, could be a step in bringing people into relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Knowing Your Gifts

Pauline's Spiritual Gifts are Administration,
Leadership and Mercy
Recently, I was talking with Pauline. She is a member of our United Methodist Women (UMW) Group and she is leading a big project this fall. Our UMW is hosting a state-wide meeting of United Methodist Women at Brighton First. She will be leading a team from our church who will plan hospitality, meals and logistics. By the time of the event over 100 people will be serving to make this event an inspirational experience for over 400 attendees.

Pauline was telling me about preliminary planning when a comment she made caught my attention. She said that it is a good thing she has the spiritual gifts for this kind of work: administration, leadership and mercy.

I was struck by Pauline's personal spiritual insight. She is aware of her spiritual gifts and has found a way to use them in the service of Jesus Christ. At Brighton First, we have been emphasizing knowledge of our spiritual gifts for two years. Pauline, like other members of our faith community, has been encouraged to step out in ministries that match her gifts, skills and interest.

According to Scripture, God has given each of us gifts for service in the world. "We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us." (Romans 12:6b) Various gifts are evident from one person to another, and that diversity of gifts allows for God's work to be done in diverse ways.

Not everyone has the gifts of teaching, helping, praying, offering mercy or sharing wisdom. The beauty of the Body of Christ, the Church, is that when people come together to use their God-given gifts remarkable things can happen in Jesus' name.

You are most likely aware of skills you have developed over the years. You may also be very clear about your interests and passions. Do you know your top spiritual gifts? If you have not had the opportunity to take a spiritual gift assessment, click here for an online option. (You will need to create a user name and password.) We also have spiritual gift assessment booklets available at Brighton First.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

When Spiritual Gifts and Discipleship Meet

Custom built ossuary and stand by Carl Dibert and
Jim Forrest in Memory of Nancy Wood
Brighton First is blessed to offer a Memorial Garden to church and community members. It is a beautiful place for the interment of a loved one's ashes and a quiet space for contemplation and prayer. Earlier in the year, members of the Memorial Garden Committee determined to purchase an ossuary.

An ossuary is, traditionally, a container for the bones of the dead. Today, an ossuary may be used as part of a memorial service to hold the cremains of the deceased and be carried into and from the sanctuary by pallbearers.

Because over one half of the funeral/memorial services at Brighton First take place after the deceased is cremated, the ossuary gives families the opportunity to participate in a formal procession that honors their loved one. The rite of carrying the remains of a loved one into and from the sanctuary is a symbolic accompaniment of that person to the very end.

Rather than purchase a manufactured ossuary, church members Jim Forrest and Carl Dibert volunteered to design and build an ossuary. They also created two matching stands so that the ossuary can be placed in the library during the family visiting time and then be moved to the sanctuary by pallbearers. The ossuary is constructed to sit securely on both stands.

Cremains are placed in ossuary.
Jim and Carl have, along with others who have the spiritual gift of crafting, offered remarkable gifts to enhance the ministry of Brighton First. I am inspired again and again by what can be accomplished by disciples of Christ who use their spiritual gifts for God's glory.

Brighton First Memorial Garden

Monday, June 12, 2017

Answering the Right Questions for Church Giving

While the summer schedule at Brighton First may appear less full, church leaders remain active planning for the fall and winter. One group that does much of its work in the summer is the Stewardship Committee. Each year they will design and lead a campaign, asking members of Brighton First to make a financial commitment for the coming year. The campaign will be highlighted in worship in October.

In preparation, Ron Matkin, the Stewardship Committee Chair, and his team will design posters and worship images, create promotions pieces, letters and a narrative budget.

The Stewardship Committee works knowing that the motivations for sustained giving for a church have changed over the years. In the article The Right Questions for Church Leaders, Rosario Picardo suggests that church leaders keep in mind some questions that potential givers want to know.
Does my giving make a difference?
This question is especially true for church members who are under 50. They have the expectation that the ministries they support are making a difference in the world. They want to be part of change for the better.                

Do I matter to my faith community?
Those who give generously feel a connection with their faith community. They feel as if they have a part in what is going on and that what they do and what they give matters. 

How will my resources be used?
While church members may not need the fine details found in the church budget, they do want to know that their time, talents and money are changing lives for the better and making disciples for Jesus Christ.

What is the vision I'm giving toward, and what is the plan for reaching it?
Like the previous question, church members want to know where the church is going and what the plan is to get there. Brighton First has a clear mission, to know, love and serve God. Our vision and strategic plan offer the direction and plan for where we are going. 

How can I get involved in the ministry I am supporting financially?
Today, being a part of church means much more than attending an hour-long worship service and giving a weekly offering. At Brighton First we expect that people desire to be in ministry, using their spiritual gifts and talents. Church leaders and staff work to connect people with ministries where they can grow in Christ and change the world. Our two primary places for initial connection are the Connection Cards that attendees fill out every Sunday and our web site.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Prayer Valued in Worship

Brighton First is a community that values prayer. We believe that prayer is a primary way that we grow in relationship with God and experience God’s grace. On Sunday morning, people in worship are invited to complete Prayer Cards. Their concerns are lifted in prayer by clergy and/or our praying community. Prayer Quilts, created by our Prayers and Squares Quilt Ministry are tangible evidence of prayer. Worshipers are invited to tie knots in each quilt as they offer prayer for the quilt recipient. 

Words spoken in prayer during worship have traditionally been called “liturgy” which means “the work of the people.” We are very blessed at Brighton First that our worship prayers are written and offered by persons from the congregation. Each week, our worship hosts work to craft prayers that speak for the community and connect with God.

It is our practice to observe an extended time of silent prayer during worship. By measurement of real time, the silence may last 1 – 2 minutes, but in our sound-filled world, the time may seem longer! As we sit in silence together, we can speak our hearts to God or listen for God’s breath to move. The Holy Spirit is powerfully present when a congregation prays together.

In times of worship let the spoken prayers join our voices before our Lord and Savior. Settle into the time of silent prayer and feel God’s presence.

Memorial Day Prayers

On Memorial Day I visited a cemetery. It was not a cemetery where any of my loved ones are buried, but a cemetery near where I was staying in Grand Rapids. Since I'd asked the congregation that Sunday to visit the grave of a soldier and give thanks, I knew that wherever I was on Memorial Day, I wanted to take some time for prayers of thanks.

I sought out grave markers with flags flying above them. I looked for markers that had been given by the United States government, uniform bronze plaques, with name, rank, branch of service and, if the soldier was deployed during war or conflict, the name.

I began each graveside prayer with thanksgiving. I prayed for both men and women who had served in WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. I prayed for one soldier who was killed in Vietnam. I also prayed for their families. I asked that no matter how long ago the person died, that someone on Memorial Day would say their name.

And at each grave I asked God that those who were left behind, children, nieces and nephews and friends, might carry within them the best of the soldier who had died. 

Isn't that something we can all ask for, that the best part of us might be passed on and carried on in others?