Our July 2016 Ankeny UCC Newsletter, starting with this letter from Pastor Nathan:
While we are in the usual summer program slowdown, a number of people have decided to make this a summer of study and exploration. Our Council has been working on setting measurable goals that challenge us to go out and do things. We’re midway through our Monday book group’s read of Beyond Resistance: the Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern Age (a big fancy way of saying: the world of church is going to be nearly unrecognizable in 20 years, so we need to make sure our focus is on how we serve people in our community, growing in fath through connections with people if we are to thrive in the new world), and Nancy Pingel, Doug Fulton, Annette Hong, and I are taking an online class from the Center for Progressive Renewal called Church Renewal 1.0, where we’re examining in-depth what other churches in similar settings and situations have done to reorient themselves to be relevant in the lives of their communities. And our #UnexpectedQuestions group addressing what we do with the faith questions of the children in our lives is meeting monthly at Firetrucker.
As we’ve read through the books, it’s become clear that it’s unlikely we will thrive by remaining the same. And that’s scary. It’s scary to think about losing treasured elements of worship, or letting go of ministries, or going out to talk with and serve people outside the church as part of the church. It’s scary to make choices we know may result in people deciding not to come, or deciding not to stay. And that’s good. It’s good to be a little scared. One line that really stuck out from our Church Renewal Class is that courage is fear that has said its prayers. Faith in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, faith in the infinite possibilities of God, faith in the gift of Jesus Christ can give us the strength to meet our fears, knowing that doing nothing creates loss, too. One look at our budgets and average weekly attendance for the past four years tells us that the way we have lived into our mission has not fully matched up with the spiritual needs of our community.
We’ve spent money with consultants to study us, and they’ve given recommendations. We’ve done self-study to understand who we think we are. And now is our time to act. Now is the time for courage. Now is the time to tell our story out loud and in public. Our sermon series for August will be on Public Narrative—the story of Me, the story of Us, and the story of Now. How do we tell our stories and live into our final acts?