Around the year 1510, a delegation of Christians from Sudan, which had been recently overrun by Muslim conquest, went to the Christian Ethiopian court and begged the emperor to send them bishops and priests. The Christians remaining in Sudan needed clergy to lead worship, administer the sacraments, and teach the people. But the emperor refused, sending them away empty-handed.

With no Christian worship, within 100 years Christianity in Sudan became extinct and forgotten until the twentieth century.

That historical moment is a useful example for Christians today.

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2015/01/23/christianity-cannot-survive-the-decline-in-worship/35932

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“Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:22-25 (NRSV)

Why is it important for Christians to gather? Some people would say we need to gather to collect offerings, so the church can survive. Others may think that it is necessary to gather because church is the place where God can be worshiped by God’s people. I have heard also that when people miss church, people feel empty. We need to remember that Paul is writing for the first century church, which is not probably the same image we think about church today.

Churches back in that time were basically houses hosting a few people who gathered clandestinely to know more about this Jesus, the son of God. They were simultaneously surrounded by multiple gods lifted up by people who praised living kings and rulers from the empires.

Paul, once convicted about Jesus’ love, talks about the power of gathering because by getting together, it gives identity to the worshippeople of God; identity in love, compassion, grace, and favor. Identity that is marked by the faith. Faith in the one who came to give his life against all political systems imposed. Through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, Paul was able to teach that a king is not the one who rules through oppression, but who loves with such power that brings hope to those that were lacking of it.

Gathering on a regular basis helps us to build self-discipline, and while the discipline takes place, our souls are transformed gradually to become what God intents for us. How? Through gatherings, we may see the reflection of our sinful nature in each other and at the same time we may reflect the grace that God provides. As part of congregational formation, the transformation may occur to help us grow as individuals as well as Body of Christ.

Now, the challenge that Paul brings us in this letter is to not only taking the image of gatherings in a place like our church, but also taking this personal and communal formation to other spheres of lives: home, work, friends, and enemies with the purpose to see “one another to love and good deeds.” It liberates us, frees us, and reshapes us.

Prayer: God almighty. Guide us to intentionally be open to your voice, so we can take the church -your church- with us wherever we go. Break the barriers of our minds, hearts, and souls, and change us in such a way that the transformation never ends. Please, forgive us for limiting your gatherings to one place. Merciful God, in your powerful son’s name, we pray. Amen.

Carlos Reyes

Christmas Invitation

Christmas Worship Invitation

Prodigal Video 5
http://my.brainshark.com/Prodigal-Video-5-828278657

REGISTER TODAY! http://www.bwcumc.org/prodigalworship

BY KATE THOMAS

Sundays have typically been the day of rest. Truthfully, most Christians today no longer take the day to give back to God. It’s about time we reclaimed this sacred day, not just for God, but in the spirit of Jesus’ teachings – to love unconditionally and spend time with those who are impoverished.  

Sunday is the perfect day to do a churchwide mission day at least once or twice a year for a few reasons:

1. People who attend church are already available.
2. It sets the tone for “church” to take place outside the church walls.
3. It provides connectedness with the entire church community in a way that could never be as widespread as Sunday morning.

How do we make this transition, you ask? It’s really quite simple once you realize your church probably already has the infrastructure to pull off a mission Sunday. You can harness some of the already existing groups (UMM, UMW, youth, Sunday School, small groups, mission team, church council, etc.) to each find a local mission project that church members can attend. Make sure to be specific about how many people you think might participate in each project, timing, directions, and choosing a team leader. Or this might be a time for anyone passionate about mission to shine. Either way, it’s helpful to have a team of people, each coordinating the details for the different projects.

Some other things to keep in mind:

1. Have a signup sheet for each project; two or three Sundays prior will help you predict your numbers.
2. Make sure to accommodate additional church members who will show up without signing up. Have projects that can take additional people or come up with additional projects that can have unlimited numbers.
3. Have a variety of projects for different ages, physical capabilities and interests.
4. Consider a gathering time before going out to serve. This could include a few upbeat songs and a prayer as well as a time for offering. The “sermon” will be your service to God.
5. Following the mission activities, it could be a great time for a church potluck, with some sharing time about the projects.
6. Set up for easy traffic flow at church. Make sure to have a meeting space for each of the projects before touching base for instructions and to carpool, and make sure to have details for those who haven’t signed up. This could be a bunch of tables in the fellowship hall with signs and descriptions as well as a handout at the door with all the projects. The short worship time before serving could take place in the same space.
7. Consider how your church can uniquely serve and Change the World in a meaningful way. Make this project your own.

Kate Thomas is senior productions coordinator for ACDI-VOCA and former graphic designer for the Baltimore Washington Conference

Saturday August 27th the Western Region of the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church held their Call to Action training session in three locations.  Here are the power points that we used.

Lay Leadership Presentation

Worship Presentation

Call to Action Overview

Small Groups Presentation