The month of November begins on All Saints Day. We will have turned our clocks back, giving us an extra hour of sleep, so we should be bright and chipper when it’s time to gather for worship. By the end of the month, we will be in the season of Advent, preparing ourselves for the celebration of the incarnation, the coming of God into our lives in the person of Jesus. Advent and Christmas will be different this year, but we will observe Advent and celebrate Christmas. I will share both Advent and Christmas hymns each day during the season on the Facebook page, inviting us to look forward to what God has in store for us in the coming year. The liturgical year begins with Advent rather than January 1. Since we would all like to leave the year 2020 behind, this gives us an early start!
As we ponder the coming year, knowing that we’ve entered a season of transition, we must keep focused on the future, on what God is doing and going to do out there in front of us. That calling is rooted in the legacy of this congregation, but we cannot and should not try to recreate the past. The season of Advent is a good place to start as it signals a new beginning. We tend to use Advent as a time of remembering Jesus’ arrival on earth, but it also speaks of his future return. It calls on us to embrace God’s future. When I was called to serve as pastor of this congregation, the word I received from the search committee was that this congregation was committed to being a missional church. That’s why I titled my monthly column “Missional Dispatch.” As a missional church, we heard the call to be engaged in ministry not just inside the building but out there in the world. So, we helped found the Metro Coalition of Congregations and Rippling Hope. We became an Open and Affirming Church, not just so we could feel good about ourselves, but so we could let the world know that God welcomes everyone. We have used the building to engage the world, but we must always beware of the temptation to use the building to hide from the world.
As you, the congregation, move toward a new era, in which I am no longer the pastor, I pray that you will build upon the missional work we’ve accomplished over the past twelve plus years. It’s worth noting that Edgar Dewitt Jones arrived in Detroit in 1920, one hundred years in the past. He was called here because Central Christian Church sensed the need to offer a Disciples witness in the burgeoning city of Detroit. So, he came, and despite some early setbacks, he was able to lead the congregation into a merger with several other Disciples churches, and eventually, a distinct witness was established. We are the heirs of that decision in 1920. We carry that legacy, but our calling is different, even as our location is different.
As we move into a new liturgical year that will be accompanied by transition, may we hold strongly to our missional calling that we discerned at a congregational retreat in February of 2009. At that retreat we discerned that God was calling Central Woodward to become a “compassionate, serving, accepting, spiritually joyful, witnessing, worshipping missional community of faith.” While in the transition some of the wording might get changed, the call remains with us. It’s worth returning to this declaration as we move into the future, hearing again God’s call to be a missional people committed to serving God in the world, even as we root that service in worship. As Jose Morales reminded us in the Perry Gresham lectures, we are called to bear witness to Jesus in a way that is open and gracious.
May we go forth into the world bearing witness to the love of God.