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.