Pastor’s Heart February 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

                This is a really strange place to be writing to you from. We are facing a critical time in the history of Pine Grove United Methodist Church which will determine whether we thrive or die.  With the decisions that are to be made in this month and the coming months, I have been in prayer as to what I can say that will be helpful as we move forward in whatever direction that is decided.

                I am led to write to you about community. A friend of mine, Rebekah Simon Peter, writes about the 3 S’s of creating community. Let me share some of the highlights with you.

                Rebekah suggests that one of the primary tasks we have in the church is creating a sense of community in everything we do. We have been lacking in this area. Just because we gather together on Sunday, this does not make us a community. Being community requires more that gathering and keeping people together. Community forms around people who feel connected to each other on more than one level. We as the church form around Jesus’s teaching and ministry. But do we really understand what that means?

                I want us to consider this in a different way. We each need to participate in this community by what Rebekah calls the 3S’s–being spiritual, being social and being of service. We have to be all 3 and we have to be these things together. Here is what Rebekah says about each.

Being Spiritual
The first part of building a sense of community in a congregation is promoting spiritual growth. Spirituality is the deep, unique, and personal relationship between a person and their God. As a person awakens spiritually, they come to understand that they are more than physical beings, they are spiritual beings as well. Just as we must eat to nurture our physical beings, so we must cultivate an intimate relationship with God to nurture our souls. While worship, prayer meetings, Bible study, mission trips, and other activities of a congregation can open a person to spiritual growth, they don’t ensure it. Being spiritual is not a passive activity. It requires honesty and vulnerability with God and oneself. And a willingness to explore one’s inner divinity.

Being Social
Cultivating social connections between people is crucial when creating community. Events and gatherings that encourage fun is helpful. Fun and laughter among adults open the space for greater trust, and more meaningful conversation. This can range from casual gatherings, like potlucks or game nights, to formal outings, like retreats or mission trips.

These social gatherings don’t have to be overtly spiritual. Sometimes connection comes from proximity; being physically close together can build trust and deepen relationships. As we look at the gospels, we get a snapshot of Jesus’ interaction with the crowds, religious leaders, and disciples. Without social bonds, people don’t feel like they belong. If they don’t feel like they belong, it’s hard for people to feel the love of God, or to effectively be of service together.

Being Of Service
Finally, being of service is essential for creating lasting relationships within any community. The service offered doesn’t have to be huge. It could be as simple as encouraging people to look out for one another, and then giving them opportunities to do it.

Being of service doesn’t have to be huge to be effective, it is helpful for people to focus on others. All the feel-good hormones increase when people undertake acts of service and generosity. Service engages people inside our community, and outside of our community as well.

The three S’s—being spiritual, being social, and being of service—are essential elements for making congregations into communities. Especially in the post-pandemic age.
By creating an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable connecting spiritually with God and one another while engaging in meaningful relationships through social activities and acts of service, we can make vibrant communities built on love and understanding rather than judgment or competition.

No matter what we do moving forward, let’s work toward creating a safe space where everyone can feel comfortable expressing themselves and connecting with others—this will be essential for our survival and growth as a church. Let’s learn the 3S’s and make them a part of our work together as we work towards building a thriving faith community!

Yours in Christ

Pastor Ron