Friday night is date night in our family. During this pandemic time, that has most often meant playing Scrabble. Truth be told, Linda is a much better player than I, winning at least 75% of the time. I’m known as the good sport in the family.
Last Friday I played the word “ethos.” Not a point getter, but using the word did trigger my thinking about what it means. In an earlier blog I used the obsolete word “weal,” meaning the well-being of, society. Ethos has a similar meaning: the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as shown by its beliefs and aspirations.
The well-being of society—the spirit of an era. Such an admirable duo. I’m sick to my soul of how far the US is from that mark and I’m sick and tired of thinking and writing about it. I need a shift in attitude.
I found one attitude-shifter as I began writing. I begin my blogs by searching scripture. This time I asked Google “What Bible verses talk about troubles?” and the following appeared. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
My second pick-up-my-spirits assist came from a song lyric that popped into my head. “Nothing’s impossible I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.”
The Biblical words come from Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth in 55 AD. The second quote is from the 1936 movie, Swing Time, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Both are good reminders that people have faced troubles throughout all of history. And, in every time of despair, people have remained resilient. Thanks be to God for that!
The third and best cure for my malaise, though, came from my acknowledgement that I am part of a loving, committed community full of people dusting themselves off and starting all over again.
My church, Garden Street United Methodist, is “starting all over again.” Not literally, of course. The congregation is building on a strong, one hundred-plus years tradition. It is the holder of memories and faith stories. There is much that we’ll carry with us into our next life. But we are going into future unencumbered by our biggest liability—our church building.
The church facility in which we’ve been housed was built in 1910. It is stately, impressive, and over the past many decades has become in critical need of rehabilitation and updating. We, as a congregation, prayerfully decided we could not commit the money or handle the indebtedness, it would take to make the building safe and accessible—so, we sold it.
We’ve learned that a church is not a building, a church is the people who make up a faith-based connection. Through our two years of Covid enforced separation, we learned we could live without our aging facility. It was connection with one another that we yearned for.
The decision didn’t come lightly or quickly. We had been studying the issue for several years. A committee, dubbed The Imagine Team, had been researching solutions and presenting those for review by the congregation. It became clear we should move into the future unencumbered by our aging building. Our two-year plus evacuation from our church home on Garden Street made that decision more clear and easier to make.
Ethos: the characteristics of a church, made manifest by its aspirations and values. Well before the pandemic, we began praying. “Give us, O God a vision of your world as love would make it; a world where the weak are protected and none go hungry; a world where benefits are shared, so that everyone can enjoy them; a world whose unique people and cultures live with tolerance and mutual respect; a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is fired with love; Lord Jesus Christ, give us the courage to imagine a new world. Amen.” We believe we’ll be able to live toward that vision through our five core values:
- Commitment to inclusiveness
- Building community
- Sustainable ministry
- Growth mindset
- Being Christ in the community and world.
Those are lofty, inspiring—daunting even—aspirations, focused not on maintenance, but on God’s Blessed Community. We’re off on a grand new start.
Dear Reader, may you find the place where you can “start all over again” in ways that enrich and excite you.
This represents Garden Street UMC so well – I consider it an honor to be part of this historical time in the life our our congregation. I appreciate your writing Amory!
We’ve got a great story to tell!
Your writing always gives me pause, and hearing these words about Garden Street UMC makes me proud that we are all connected. What beautiful choices you have made, and a most poignant prayer.
Thank you, Molly, for your words of affirmation. Garden Street has made some beautiful choices–I’m eager to see what unfolds next.
I have no connection to Garden Street, other than looking at it as a possible church home when looking for a new physical place to call “home”. I ended up landing in Anacortes. But I am struck by the wisdom here in moving on, and closing one door so that others may be opened. It can be so scary and yet so exciting to move from one life to another, seeking the fullness of life, looking toward what can be, rather than what was.
I am aware of other churches, in and out of the denomination, that have made this choice for various reasons. The one I always hold up in my heart is the one, a Church of Christ I believe, near my old home, that sold its gorgeous, modern building, not because of liability, but because it recognized how much of time, energy and money it was spending to maintain and manage it, all of which could be used to greater worth when put toward its missional and spiritual goals.
I wish you much success and new fullness of life as you move forward without this encumbrance.
Thank you, Becky, for this thoughtful and thought-filled response. I particularly responded to your comments about the church that recognized that maintenance money could be better spent on the mission of the church. I/we are finding that an exciting opportunity now that we’ve shed ourselves of our aging, needy building.
Garden Street UMC was my “home church” when I was in college – fond memories from those 3 years I was in Bellingham. Just curious -is the congregation meeting presently for worship, if so – where? I pray that the congregation continues to reach out into their mission field to be Jesus’ hands and feet here on earth.
So glad that Garden Street was part of your college experience in Bellingham! Our college ministry will certainly continue–just not in the same location. We are currently meeting at the Four Points Hotel while we look for space to lease for the near future. There we’ll be dreaming/planning/praying about what our longer term facility needs will be.
Garden Street UMC will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my introduction to the UMC and my home church while I attended what was then Western Washington State College. I love seeing the core values for Garden Street UMC and knowing that it continues to serve the community and be in mission with all.
I often hear stories of how Garden Street UMC was foundational to students years at WWU. So glad that was true for you, too. College ministry will be core to our future, no matter how or where we are housed. Thanks for responding!!
Amory, Good Word. This is the only way forward.
Thank you for reading and responding. Yes, after much prayer, thought, and discussion, Garden Street knew it was the way we needed to go.
Amory, once again your insights and clear way of stating/explaining have hit home. I must admit a bit of surprise reading that the Garden Home UMC physical structure has been sold. I fondly remember being there a few times yet, more importantly, I remember the courage and warmth that the Garden Street congregation has shown over and over. Blessings of hope, faith, and love continue for you and family, for you and congregation!