A Conference EPistle





Rev. Dr. Carrie Call,

Associate Conference Minister 


Oh God, lead us beyond our buildings.

Keep us outwardly focused so we don't become self-absorbed.

Help us to be faithful ministers of Jesus,

no matter the road we find ourselves on.

Enable us to meet people wherever they have a need,

and to seek you in new places.

Help us minister faithfully as we proclaim the gospel,

so we may be leaven in your world.

Fill us with radical trust

and lead us forward as a congregation

into new life and new ministry.

In Jesus' name.




August 26, 2013    

Where would you go? What would you take with you?

Last week I drove to a small church to participate in worship and deliver the sermon. That in itself isn't unusual. What was unusual was the nature of this particular church. First, on the way I passed the building that used to house this congregation. The group no longer meets in the brick church it built in the 1950s. Second, the building I entered was not a sanctuary, but instead a senior living facility. The congregation was gathered in the atrium and the majority of attendees were in wheelchairs. On the list of activities for the day, church was listed in between manicures and music. When we sang the hymns and read scripture together, I felt the Spirit present - in the midst of a group of people who many had probably forgotten. I also noticed what this congregation used for worship. In that small atrium were the critical elements the congregation took with them when they left their previous building: hymnals, a lectern from the original 19th century church and the cross on the table. (The group also has two trays from their original communion set.) What more could they need? They had their music, the cross to remind them of their purpose, the lectern for sharing the word and plates for communion.


Leaving their building was not an easy or happy decision. However, when I speak with the members of this church, they are quick to note several things - they are united now, they no longer fight, and there was a sense of liberation involved with leaving the old building. The most powerful thing I noted was this: those elderly in that senior living facility would not have been ministered to by this church if the congregation hadn't left their building. That's notable. The loss of their building allowed them to minister in a new way that they never expected. This little congregation had no ties with the senior facility before moving there. It was the only place that encouraged them to come. As it turns out, the activities director had been praying for a church to come and settle there. They are now firmly convinced that this is where God led them - and these are their people.

This experience pushed me to think about what would happen if we lost our church buildings. Where would we go? What would we take with us? I know that many of our churches use their buildings to great effect, providing ministry through bricks and mortar. I think of churches made into shelters, soup kitchens, daycare centers and the like. But this is still an interesting spiritual thought experiment. What is so essential to our communities that we would take it with us? What would we leave behind? What new avenues of ministry might suddenly open for us that we would never have followed before? How might our buildings distract us or prevent us from sharing the gospel? Where might God be calling us outside of our doors?

Carrie Call