Strengthening Our Community
As we begin a new church year this month, I invite you to pray for the new leaders who have accepted new roles. Leadership in the church is very important. Also, I want to make you aware of some staffing updates and changes that are going into effect this month.
Rev. Jay Hutchens will serve as our Executive Minister of Small Groups & Discipleship. He is helping me with some strategic initiatives from our spring visioning process as well as some staff supervision and administration. Jay brings many years of ministry experience to our team and great ideas for the future.
Dr. Roy Stauffer is our Minister to Older Adults. He will also continue to work with Adult Sunday School classes and men’s groups.
Jenny Simmons will become our Associate Minister to Youth and their Families, continuing to work with Chris Cox. Jenny recently earned her Master of Divinity from Central Baptist Seminary and is increasing her hours. Jenny is now planning her ordination.
Dr. Donovan McAbee is becoming our Minister of Spiritual Formation and the Arts. Donovan is also a religion professor at Belmont and will be incorporating some of what he teaches into his ministry at Woodmont.
Rev. Justin Gung is now our Minister of Pastoral Counseling. In addition to his counseling degree, Justin also has a counseling degree from Vanderbilt. He will be available for pastoral counseling appointments.
Moriah Domby Pirtle is now our Director of Young Adult Ministries. She is also continuing to work with our youth music ministry.
Ashley Buchanan just graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School and will become our Children’s Curriculum Coordinator. She will continue to work with Abby McClean, our Children’s Ministry Director. Ashly will be ordained on Sunday, July 31st at 3 pm in the chapel.
Steven Quinn has increased his hours to become our head AV Director. We continue to expand in this area.
Tammy Morgan is now our Bridge Ministry Assistant, helping Andra in a variety of roles at the Bridge.
All other staff positions remain the same. We are certainly blessed to have a strong and talented staff team at our church.
Roy gave an interesting sermon over the Fourth of July weekend. The basic premise was that America has made incredible progress in terms of technology, health care innovation, smart phones, gadgets, computers, travel, and a host of other things. Standards of living have reached new levels. Material comforts abound. But at the exact same time, we seem to be moving backwards when it comes to morality, values, faith, and community. We see more fear, anxiety, burnout, hatred, anger, division, loneliness, and depression than ever before. Does anybody see the obvious correlation here? The pandemic did not do churches, synagogues, or mosques any favors. Such a prolonged disruption in worship and community life will have long-lasting implications. When this is combined with growing secularization that was already underway in this country pre-Covid, it is a brutal combination. Having said this, I found great hope and encouragement in a recent article written by Phillip Yancey for Christianity Today arguing that there will always be a need and hunger for in person church. As convenient and easy as online worship and connection have become, it is not a substitute for gathering together face to face. According to Yancey, “Church offers a place where infants and grandparents, unemployed and executives, immigrants and blue bloods can all assemble together. Where else can we find that unique mixture? Certainly not online.”
Here’s the difficult but imminent question. As a nation, can we see the clear correlation of lower church involvement, fewer spiritual practices, less time in prayer, and kids sports every Sunday with a culture that is becoming more anxious, angry, more violent, isolated, exhausted, and fearful than ever before? We have forgotten the basic things that made our country great in the first place: faith, community, family, civic engagement, liberty, and service above self. If we can acknowledge that this is a problem, then there are some basic things that might need to change. We can get our kids off screens and back out in the neighborhood to play with friends. Say no to travel soccer or baseball tournaments so that your family can actually rest and worship over the weekend. Turn off cable news and read a book, or take a walk. Get the family or friends together and go out volunteer in the community to serve others. See if you can make it for one week without social media. Engage the person who votes differently from you in civil dialogue rather than writing them off.
Moving forward, better decisions must be made if we want different results. Spiritual renewal is needed in this country. One that recognizes exactly what we have been missing and neglecting over the past few years. Insanity is defined as, “Trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This applies to all areas of life. Religion may not be the answer for everyone, but the teachings of Jesus offer many solutions: love God, love neighbor, forgive enemies, pray often, help the poor and marginalized, feed the hungry, house the homeless, deal with your anger, spread more peace. This is what we need in the world right now, and it can all be found in the gospels. According to Yancey, “Rather than providing an entertainment venue, the church’s real task is to equip a community to serve others – and that task becomes more challenging for those who no longer meet in person. I’ve noticed that sharp divisions over politics tend to fade in the background when believers join together in acts of service. Indeed, a true community can begin to take shape.” What many of us are looking for is spiritual renewal, found in true community, amidst the noise and chaos of our world.
August 11, 2022
July 29, 2022