"Beloved ones, if God loved us so much, we ought to love one another also."
I John 4:11
The apple crop is large this year and, driving in orchard country, you can imagine an avalanche of red (and golden delicious, of course) rolling to market. And, in due course, the patter of tomatoes leaving the scene. Done and done!
So the Community Table crew was surprised have been gifted with fifteen dozen ears of sweet corn in October. Four plastic containers waited in the refrigerator at coffee hour, husked, cooked, cooled and waiting the knife. Which is a new way to spend your coffee hour fellowship time. The abundance of the fall in West Michigan defies imagination at times….and the available freezer space. Diligent blueberry eaters have helped with the gleaning results from August-September. Now the corn. When the cabbage shows up, it will be “all hands on deck” Kale chips?
The Vital Church Initiate Away Team drove through some of those orchards (and past some trout fishermen) going to LeRoy early this month. VCI is a process that assembles congregational teams to meet, discuss and stretch their understanding of the vision of their congregation. Meeting in another setting, talking with other United Methodists greatly accelerates and deepens the process. We were startled with the abundance of concern and hope among the seven congregations assembled.
As October was and is turning the corner into a new season, VCI appears to be a change in season. Dan Dick’s Vital Signs was our text. After consulting with hundreds of congregations, Dick sketches out a diagram with growth on the X axis and stability on the Y axis. Regressive churches are stable but so narrowly focused that they are not growing. Decaying churches are—as you might expect—neither growing nor stable. Dystrophic churches are growing but unstable so that any small shift such as the loss of a pastor, closing of a plant in the area etc. can bring them down.
We are in quest of the Vital: stable, balanced, growing, communicating and focused on their vision for what God would have them do where they are. Ideas rumbled down around us and the avalanche promises to continue in our next session in November. Apple pie, apple crisp, apple butter, apple sauce comes to mind.
by Anne Soles
John Wesley asked “are you going on to perfection?” He was talking about spiritual things but he might have considered September as perfected. We need to do a little work on March but September? Bella!
Our first worship service inside with an increasing group, slipping into seats, filling rows, greeting friends lost in the crowds of summer. We didn’t notice until the line for communion that we were indeed – full. (This is a good thing). A good thing too to have the children interested in that communion table. Reading from Exodus on the Passover (a little R rated when it got to the blood in bowls and every household in mourning –plus the part about taking the Egyptian gold and jewelry…didn’t remember that...the children’s sermon participants correctly identified the door posts and lintel…even if it was the door to the elevator. And they came back upstairs from Sunday School for communion.
But in our own haste, that morning’s bread might as well have been unleavened. As with many transition points, the first Sunday’s communion was not the well-oiled machine of yore and the homemade artisan bread had its own chewy attributes. But the congregation and an impromptu choir in the pews leavened the singing with music from the new song book (The Faith We Sing) as response. And the songs of praise did rise. We even sang “Go Down Moses” in a spritely manner but not one petitioned for all eleven verses. September is a good month of beginnings.
September brings us back together. Community Dinners each Wednesday night 4:30 to 6:00 drew in the same numbers as in June. Richard StDenis was the chef underscoring that Karen and Richard and crew need volunteers ---Tuesday prep folks, dish washers (an elite group), dining room staff, desserts –which can come from your own kitchen. Men’s Group gathers at the end of the month (4th Tuesday or 23rd) and Joy Circle also at 6:30. (careful—five Tuesday this month). Bible Study each Monday continues. Adult Study restarts Sunday mornings at 9 with Diana Butler Bass series. And newsletter folders are coming on 25th at 10 to send off the Circuit Rider.
Pentwater and Centenary resumes. Think of us if you are heading south. Join us if you are enjoying the perfect month. Go to the beach one more time, eat a tomato, buy a bag of apples, cut the grass again and pick up the threads of “together” as we go.
by Anne Soles
Pentwater is draping itself with wild grapevines this summer. Small children who stand too long in one place may be captured at the rate these are growing. It is as if the difficult winter of 13-14 has prompted (and watered) every plant to be fruitful and multiply.
It was a difficult winter. Centenary did not close its doors on any Sunday during the winter although the snow piles along Hancock Street were taken out with a bucket loader on several occasions. The April 3rd rain-wind storm did cancel worship and brought down trees all around town, Bass Lake being one of the worst hit areas.
We are enjoying this fruitful summer and looking forward to the second half when first salad and then tree fruits put substance to the promise of God’s abundance. Grapevines keep us honest about the abundance of God’s universe.
An NPR writer noted that while grapes in Europe had been cultivated and selected over thousands of years, here in North American (and Michigan and along the temperate coast of Lake Michigan at Pentwater) grapes have been selected and planted by birds. As result, they are small, bright blue to be seen and tart. As so our summer is small, bright and a bright strong contrast---with the city, as a vacation, as the abundance of farm work and restaurant work and gift shop work and work.
Enjoy --- enjoy this season. Just don’t stand too long looking at grapevines. God may have a plan for you!
by Anne Soles
Until this evening, we had a little difficulty turning the corner on fall. I was genuinely surprised to find the sweet corn bin replaced with dried Indian corn at the produce market. If we’d been grasshoppers, the trap would have been baited and set (you remember the story of the grasshopper and the ants and their preparations for winter…without the benefit of Scott's Turf Builder or Christmas lay-away ads from K-Mart). Tomorrow will bring us back to reality and you can put Halloween candy on your shopping list.
With the weather, fall festivals, color tours, the occasional house guest coming through, we have also been a little fragmented as a congregation. At the first Hart Concert series on Friday night, I realized that all of the July 14th Quilt Display organizers were in the house…if only I had enough energy to talk with them at the interval. (I didn’t). It is difficult for in-state folks to understand how we come “beached” into the fall in this resort place.
As a result, are still looking for word about our prayer requests and happenings. Church Conference took place in Hart this two weeks ago with an understanding that we have sister churches in the area and we are connected in many ways.
Community Table continues each Wednesday night replete with fall vegetables coming in from all directions. The numbers continue to grow and if you want a place saved to help with anything from cooking to greeting to serving to washing dishes, you are welcome!
Doctor Elma Jocson, our missionary whom we have supported from Nepal to Liberia, is back home in the Phillipines at this writing and preparing for a month in “central Asia” helping to set up a hospital. Prayers are always in order but particularly as she heads into this new set of mountains.
October is here and in transformation. Our mission as United Methodists, from St Matthew: to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Welcome fall.
by Anne Soles
Inching down Hancock Street this afternoon behind a plain yellow Empire State Toyota, I began to think how no-nonsense New York plates were as opposed to the arch of flowers for Tennessee or the choices for Indiana or Missouri.And since I had plenty of time not going down Hancock Street, I started to count out of state plates. Here in Pentwater on a still warm, still perfect Saturday afternoon in July.
Just plain Pentwater at the beach Thursday night where our book club picnic forgot the charcoal, settled for salads and desserts and then waded out to the sandbar, bathing suits or no. Frankly we were a little surprised at how nice it was at Mears State Park on a heat wave evening. We know that beach. None of us were looking forward to hot sand but had taken Coast Guard Park for granted (it was reserved). But the Lake Michigan beach stood the challenge.Still warm, still perfect in July.
So here we are, crowded and plain, a little like the yellow New York license plate. We are what we are of a summer. Run over by crowds and then surprised by the joy of the beach. Standing still and letting the waves. And the crowds swirl by.
Last Saturday the Centenary sanctuary was a sea of quilts and an island of calm in Art Fair Saturday. Wags suggested we just leave the quilts on the pews against some Sundays in February when their true value might be understood. But we did understand the value of all those loving stitches, paired pieces, connective quilting over the years…..blessing the church and being blessed by the attention of reverent visitors. It was quiet. The visitors were steady. They picked up pieces, made comparisons and did not turn loose a single ice cream cone even though we had forgotten the “be careful” signs.
The village and the church is tasked this summer with quiet. Not that you could tell from the cars in the streets, the lines at the restaurants, the bustle at the beach. Not that you could tell by the rush to find ushers, accompanists, news crammed into bulletins, congregational news muffled by all the other bodies. Like that plain New York license plate or the UMW sandwiches and pie for lunch, like the old wooden pews, red hymnals and windows that let in bats---we are who we are. Like the quilts, we are on display. Pieced into a pattern and connected, warm and perfect for July. Be still and know that I am God.
by Anne Soles