If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finding Peace: Philippians 4:2-14

*This lesson can also be found at: http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/abs/abs100822.html

I found Peace…just a couple of blocks from my house. Peace Mennonite was a small congregation I started attending when I first moved to Portland, Oregon last year. The reason I chose to go to that church was not simply because it was close, but because for being such a small Mennonite congregation it was racially, economically, and socially diverse. I thought that if there ever was a Mennonite congregation that should survive, it should be Peace Mennonite.

Over the years the diversity, divisions, and disillusionments took their toll leaving a small remnant of members. The congregation had already begun thinking about its future when my wife and I began attending. As a new member with years of church experience and having led another church through such a process I offered to create a process of discernment for the leadership team concerning the congregation’s future.

When first the idea of closing was presented as one of the options it did not bring peace, but rather emotional unrest among the members. At first no one wanted to even consider closing as an option. We started the process by spending each Sunday morning talking openly, honestly, and face-to-face about various options for the congregation’s future. It was a difficult process.

The church’s leadership team decided to use the Philippian text from this lesson as a focal text for our planning meetings and with the congregation. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice…May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds. These verses offered a word of joy and hope and peace amid the depressing possibility of closure. Each Sunday we sang these words to a joyful tune keeping our wounded hearts and minds at peace.

There were moments of weeping when we remembered who Peace had been over the years. There were moments of hope when we considered future possibilities for the church and the potential use of the buildings and grounds. There was in the end a peace that passes understanding as unexpectedly the members unanimously affirmed closing the doors. And there was rejoicing during the final service when friends and former members gathered together on the last Sunday to celebrate the life and ministry of Peace Mennonite Church. I am glad I found Peace and that the church found peace.

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