Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Moving, Grieving, Meeting, Adjusting, Growing, Learning

It was hard to figure out what to call this post, or when to write it. We've been dealing with some spiritual issues for a while and it hasn't really seemed like the right time to mention them, but last week at church our pastor talked about community. He reminded us that God's plan for His people was for them to have community, to rely on each other, be accountable to one another, and to lean on one another. So we are asking for the prayers of the community who read our blog.

A few months ago, our very small church was drastically altered (for lack of a better word) by the very sudden and surprising resignation of our pastor and disbanding of our church body. For the most part, this came as a complete shock to the church body. There were many phases to this, after the resignation. For a few weeks pastors from nearby PCA churches came to give our sermon and lead the service. Our new church leadership (only recently approved by the presbytery during our organization ceremony in the summer) were stretched to the max as we had meeting after meeting. We met for many Sundays after church armed with food to talk about what had happened and where the church was going to go, especially in light of our very small size, extremely recent move from church plant to organized PCA church, and strong desire by many members to cease being a congregation.

For a while it seemed like there were several options. There was a pastor (and family) familiar with the situation who wanted to assume the congregation. Unfortunately our contributions (combined with a large amount of debt that it was revealed the church had fallen into) would not support a pastor (or family). There was discussion of our body joining another local PCA body and our "potential" pastor, coming alongside us and attending to us there. Hopefully in this scenario we would relaunch in Oakland at some point and he would be our pastor. Another option was for our church to join the other local PCA church (Christ Church) indefinitely. A final option would be for our church to disband and for it's members/attenders to join other congregations with no plans for reorganization as All Nations Presbyterian Church.

There was much heartache in this process for so many members. The majority of the church's voting members (Matt and I had not officially joined the congregation yet and were not able to vote) voted to completely dissolve the church. They struggled greatly with awaiting the Presbytery's reluctant agreement that the church should disband. Most of these meetings were very difficult to be in. There was a great deal of hurt, and anger.

Most of this happened in October and November. It really couldn't have been a worse time. Although the plan was for the majority of the congregation( who did not plan to attend a different church or change denominations) to attend Christ Church in Rockridge (about 10 minutes from our old location) this was only the case for a week or two. The new church has a morning and evening service in 2 different locations. The closest to our old meeting location was the evening service, so it was planned that we would all attend that one. For the first week almost everyone from our old church came. It was great to see everyone and to see (hopefully) continued healing and fellowship. But soon it was Thanksgiving and traveling and Christmas around the corner and many families (including ours) were gone for weeks at a time. I think it became discouraging to people who came to only find a family or two from All Nations at Christ Church and many stopped attending. Several families had been traveling a long LONG way to keep up their membership at All Nations and found it to be a fitting time to locate a church close to their homes.

Since we've returned from our holiday traveling there has been some consistency in our former members attending the new church and it seems like roughly a third of our previous congregation will find a home there. We are excited about this! Christ Church has a RIDICULOUS number of young couples and families, 4 pastors and lots of great opportunities to be involved. We've attended a long dinner/orientation for newcomers (with many of our fellow All Nations friends) and the church as a whole has warmly welcomed their brothers and sisters from Oakland. From a very discouraging time, has emerged a much more hopeful future and we are excited to see what God will do. Matt and I moved to Oakland because of our church and our friends here. Matt was also leading worship at All Nations which was something that he loved! We moved for lots of other reasons too.....(too long a commute for Matt from Martinez, closer to the city for our business, etc.) but there were many close locations to choose from, and Oakland very special because of our church family.

On Sunday at church I was convicted to finally write about this spiritual battle that so many have been facing because of this difficult time. Some of our sermon was from Thessalonians, a book that really emphasizes the community relationship and fellowship that God desires in a church body. In Thessalonians, Timothy reports to Paul that many have become discouraged through a misunderstanding that those who have died before Christ's return will not arise when He comes back. They are grieving for their "lost" brothers and sisters. Paul writes to them and says:

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. " 1 Thess. 4:13

"For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1 Thess. 5:9-11

It is our prayer that our church family, old and new, will continue to remember to encourage each other during difficult times so we will be attentive to others among us who may be grieving. It is a great joy to remember that God has a plan for our church, and for us in our new church and that there is a whole body of believers (here in CA, and all over) to encourage us and build us up. Please pray with us that we are constantly reminded of God's plan for salvation! Please pray for those in our church who are discouraged and feeling displaced and a little lost. Thank you for being our friends, and our community that we can call on in a time of need. What a great joy you are!


The Liebers said...

Hey Laurie-I know it can rock your foundation when you have problems with or at church. That is supposed to be the place where you can go to get away from the craziness of the world! I had a similar experience this Fall with a group at church that I am involved with. What helped me was to remember that God's church is filled with His people, who are flawed and full of sin. We try to be more like Him in our ways, but we all fall short. And sometimes we fall shorter than others. I hope that you all are on the road to healing and able to feel a real part of another church community soon.

Herb of Grace said...

Sad to hear about this. It's always sad when a church goes through some rough and rocky times, but it sounds like the Lord is providing for your family and the others in your small band :)

Susannah Forshey said...

This is so irrelevant, but reading about your struggles here has made me yearn for the PCA again. *sigh* Thank God He has given you guys that solid foundation to be a part of!