A Word from Our Pastor 2010 March Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations part 1

Lent: Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

During this Lenten season of preparation for the new life we experience at Easter time, we will begin a study of the “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” During the next several months, my sermons will focus on these practices. Since it is Lent, and an appropriate season to set aside the things that usually consume our time in favor of our spiritual growth, I am beginning with the third fruitful practice, “intentional faith development.”

Every Sunday during Lent, we will learn about a particular method of praying, and will practice that method alone and with a prayer partner. Also, there will be an “early morning” Lenten group that will also focus on prayer, but with additional methods and techniques (in addition to taking up any topics that interest the group). This Lenten group will begin every Sunday (February 28, March 7, 14 and 21) from 9:45 – 10:15. I hope to see you there.

I am often asked, “how do I grow in faith?” When there are challenges in life, most of us want more faith, more reassurance that God is with us, and that things will turn out all right. Or if things don’t turn out, we want to know that God will help us through the grief, pain or loss. In the best case, faith grows throughout our lifetime: it matures as we mature. But, as you know, we may mature in years without growing wiser — and similarly as we grow older, our faith may not mature, unless we are intentional about it. Faith requires “cultivation,” like we cultivate the soil in our gardens: we have to create the place where faith can grow.

We grow in faith by learning in community, and through opportunities we have to give and receive love — to members of our church, and to the world. We can gain a deeper awareness of God’s presence and will, experience spiritual renewal and enjoy the “fruits of the spirit” — love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) through intentional faith development.

Our faith grows not just in our quiet time alone with God, but also in community, at church: in public and family prayers, in reading the Bible, in Holy Communion and in doing works of mercy. Remember, Jesus sent the disciples out “two by two.” We are given each other to help each other down the road of faith.

At the end of Lent, as part of our Stephen Ministry program, we will offer everyone the opportunity to have a prayer partner. A prayer partner is someone you speak with once a week (in person, by phone, or email) and share prayer requests. There are several ways this prayer can happen: You may pray together aloud, or in silence. You may “make up” your own prayers, or use written prayers. Or, you may simply share the things that you would like the other person to pray about, and both of you will pray on your own during the week. During Lent, we will provide you with the resources to have a prayer life that will be fulfilling, and will bring you closer to God and to one another. You are in my prayers — that this Lent you will experience a rebirth of your faith!
–Rev. Naomi