Thursday, June 30, 2016

SummerTime Sabbath

by Dr. James R. Brooks, Lead Minister

Summertime!  Summertime!  What renews your soul?  Is it a hobby, a sporting event, a sandy beach?
I want to thank the congregation for the vacation time that my son and I have enjoyed.  I write this as he and I prepare to head east to visit Norfolk Naval Station, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Mt. Vernon, Fredericksburg battlefield, and more.  Most of all is this time of recreation with my son when more commonly he and I are sharing the daily routines of school, church, etc.
God has given us many ways to celebrate the sabbath.  Sabbath is a time set aside for renewal.  Farmers will leave a field fallow for a season to renew it.  We organized our church to give church leaders periodic seasons of rest.  The most important key to sabbath is renewing the most important relationships we share … our relationship with God and those we love. 
Sundays are our most corporate celebration of sabbath, as we celebrate the reconciling love of Jesus in communion.  Daily, we have an opportunity to pause for renewing time with God.  Vacations are one more opportunity “be” outside our work-a-day world and “be” with God in new ways.
If you wish to attend church while traveling for work or business, contact the church office.  We can help you find the closest Disciple congregation to your destination.

I look forward to tracking some sand back with with me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reflecting on 15 Years of Shared Ministry

by Dr. Brooks

On June 12th, 2016, I celebrated 15 years of ministry with you.  I am reminded of this by my son who was born 3 days after my first sermon at FCCE.  I am inspired by the ministry we share together.

In 2001, our budget was $110,000.00 & now it is $330,000.00.  In 2001, we had a staff of 3 & today we have a staff of 10.  In 2001, insurance cost us $4,500.00 & now it costs over $12,000.00.  We have invested over $500,000.00 in our facility and land to provide for present and future generations.  We have given our staff at least a cost of living increase every year, including those years of the latest recession.  We have tithed to needs beyond our threshold.  

We birthed the contemporary worship service.  As a congregation we took the risk to raise money over and above the budget to fund the new worship service, to remodel our fellowship hall, and to change our Sunday morning schedule.  This leap of faith lead to passing the faith to another generation, just as we prayed.

Our traditional worshipping community has continued to be a rich liturgical experience.  This worship opportunity continues to serve a valued portion of the congregation from before my arrival to today and into the future.  We are blessed by this worship style!

Together, we have hosted 5 student ministers, sponsored 3 people for ordination, sponsored 2 people for commissioned ministry and have created our first full-time Associate Minister position on staff.  We did this regardless of orientation, race or gender for the table of the Lord is that radically open.  These are important ministries of developing leaders for the church universal. 

In 2001, our ministry to minors could be counted on one hand.  This year we chartered a bus to take 31 youth & sponsors  to camp.  We are about to birth a JYF for youth 5th grade and younger to compliment our existing dynamic weekly youth ministry.

We created the E-Event!  For 3 years, we hosted a 1 day gathering focused on evangelism.  We gathered over 100 people from 25 congregations, from multiple denominations, to strengthen efforts to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We have shared our blessing of facility.  Over 15 outside groups use our facility each year.  We have hosted gatherings focused on closing the gaps in our community’s social safety network.  This in the midst of our own ministries who make increasingly higher demands upon our facility.

We have consistently celebrated 10% of our worshipping community joining our church each year.  This made us vibrant as we mourn the loss of cherished members.  The new members have diversified who we are making us more like the local community we serve.

In the midst of our shared ministry, I am raising my son, Joseph.  I obtained my doctoral degree.  I have served on a multitude of regional & general church ministries representing our congregation.  I have served as the chaplain for the Edwardsville Police Department since 2005.

More than all this, we have worshipped Jesus Christ and we have shared the faith with our brothers & sisters near and far.  We have seen lives & relationships transformed.  For this, I am most thankful to serve with you.  May God bless us in the years to come!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Lightning Bug Blessings

by Dr. James R. Brooks

As I took the dog for his last walk before bedtime, we approached the lower field on my parent’s property.   A piece of land in the country neighborhood where I roamed with friends as a children.  The field was a fire with lightning bugs.  Acres of blinking lights from the fluorescent insects.
As the dog and I stood in the dark, I was in awe of God’s creation both in the memory of my youth and in the blinking lights of the present.  A moonless night caused by cloud cover.  The damp of spring rains reign in the air.
Lightning bugs are a symbol of God’s blessings.
Yes, you can catch a blessing if you try.  Yes, you can ruin a blessing by squashing it barehanded or plowing through it with a windshield.  Yes, you can allow it to light the night of your life.
Seemingly a million blinking insects fill the field beyond the scope of my peripheral vision.  
It is awesome to see these little lights that both fill the night and yet barely glow.
Individually they are so easily a smear on the glass.  Collectively they are undeniable.
I allow myself to wallow in the light of this mystery of evolution.  That such chemical braggadocio should evolve in such a slight creation.  Definitely a bug of the moment, celebrating God with no fear of the future or the winged predator aiming upon the light.
Were that field my life, would not I count as many blessings as I did lightning bugs tonight?
Beyond my scope, within my grasp, motivating my morning with the awe of this evening?
May the lightning bug be a symbol of the cross?  So fragile incarnate yet so fluorescent divine?

Be kind to the lightning bug you collect.  It is your blessing.