The Future of Our Churches

 
At the beginning of this month I was blessed to attend the Young Anglican Project and Rooted Conferences in Nashville, Tennessee. The Young Anglican Project is a group designed to help Anglican Youth Programs throughout the United States. The first day of the gathering we were fortunate enough to spend the day with Archbishop Foley Beach. Foley Beach++ spoke to us about the future of the ACNA. He said that future is our students. His desire is that the local Anglican Church will long for the youth of today. He told us to get out there and build relationships. Programming will only get you so far. You have to know your students. His exact words were, “Students spell love: T-I-M-E.” Listening to him speak about his childhood and getting to know him on a more personal level, reminded me why I love youth ministry. Our students just want someone to be real with them, and for us to know who they truly are. I don’t have to pull a rabbit out of my hat and entertain them. I just have to listen.
 
Later that day Foley Beach++ asked us what struggles we have in our ministries. Some spoke of parent involvement, community involvement, how do we instill a life of prayer in our students, and the fact that we have a small number of students in our youth groups. Others spoke of suicide, depression, gender confusion, and same-sex attraction. These are all problems that we are facing in some shape or form within our own groups. We also brought up areas where we were seeing success. Some of those areas where: students leading small groups, students having a heart for missions, and multi-generational relationships.
 
Then he asked, “How does your youth ministry fit into the overall ministry of the Church?” I sat with this question for a while. Then I looked at our service from the pew on a Sunday morning. I see some of our students serving in different rolls, for example music team and acolytes. Then I asked myself, is that enough? How do we instill a desire for our youth to not be an audience member, but an active participant on Sundays and beyond? The next question he asked was who are the people in your church that are being discerned to work with the youth? Who and what do these people that help us run our youth groups look like? Is our help multi-generational? What does support look like from the church? Foley Beach++ told us not to answer these questions ourselves, but to get support from our parish.
 
Youth ministry is a long road. It’s spending time in real conversation with our students. It’s meeting them where they are, not just expecting that they will always come to us. It’s answering the hard questions that we may not be ready for, but the Holy Spirit is. It’s honestly looking at how our youth ministry fits into the overall ministry of our church. It’s taking the time to show and teach them what it means to be Anglican. They are not just the kids in that other building who you see every so often. How can we achieve the goal that Foley Beach++ stated: that youth are the future of our churches? Can we have a multi-generational support system for our youth and Servants? I pray that we can. I pray we all desire to know our youth on a personal level and find them where they are.
 
 
Kim Harris
 
 
Kim has been a member of Servants for four years and is the Director for Children & Families. With her husband John she has three children: Jack, Kaycee, and Katelynne.


The Call to Engage

 
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Romans 13:1-2,7-10
 
In a strange twist, the apostle Paul begins chapter 13 of Romans talking about submitting to government authorities and then connects this Christian civil responsibility to the second portion of Jesus’ summary of the Law, namely to “love one another.” Just to remind us all, St. Paul is talking about the Roman government! Thanks be to God, we live not under Roman rule but the rule of law with the rights of a constitution which, among other things, guarantees our right to vote.
 
Even as I am writing this blog, I’m aware of my own frustration with the state of politics in our country. It is easy to ignore what is happening around us and simply go about our individual lives. Yet, if I take Paul’s admonition seriously, how I engage or refuse to engage in society is really a response to the command to love my neighbor. Furthermore, our Lord Jesus calls us to be salt and light in our city, county, and state. Part of this calling is lived out as we engage with issues that affect our community and speak out from a Christ-centered perspective.
 
You may be thinking, “Why is Alex all the sudden talking about politics?” I write this blog today in light of our upcoming general election on November 6th. You may not be aware yet, but locally “this year's November ballot will be the longest voters have seen in at least 20 years.” In addition to many state and local officials to be elected, the ballot will contain twelve proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution, two Alachua county referenda, and two city of Gainesville referenda. The Supervisor of Elections anticipates completing a ballot may take up to 30 minutes. My fear is that for some, this will become overwhelming and they will simply give up in the process. I do not believe this is an option for Christians who take seriously Paul’s words in Romans 13.
 
To this end, I would encourage each of you to seriously review the proposed amendments and referenda, along with candidates and prayerful consider how you should vote. Sample ballots are mailed out but you can also obtain one at voteAlachua.com. In addition, I am personally working through the amendments and referenda and would be willing to lead a non-partisan discussion with members of the congregation in order to seek greater clarification. Please contact me personally if you are interested.
 
I will close this with a quote by the late John Stott, “if we truly love our neighbors, and want to serve them, our service may oblige us to take (or solicit) political action on their behalf.”
 
May God guide you in all these things,


We Did It!

 
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” 
1 Kings 8:27-30
 
We did it! We consecrated our new space to the worship of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – on the 22nd of September. If you missed the day, I’m so sorry because it I was glorious. Not the building or the people but the presence of the Lord as we gathered together. We do have some bulletins from the service if you would like one; especially meaningful to me were words of encouragement from our two oldest members, Ms. Jane Gresley and Dr. James Sunwall.
 
You may be wondering why I’m just now writing about the service since it happened almost two weeks ago. Simple answer: fatigue. Putting on a wedding takes a lot of effort. I fondly told people after the service, “I feel like I’ve been engaged to this new space since April and now we are married.” One purpose of a marriage ceremony is to acknowledge the covenant being made by the couple in a public way. I think a consecration service is a similar for a parish as we as a congregation make covenant with the Lord to love and serve Him through the use of this space. It is set apart for God’s purposes, which is why the Bishop took time to walk around and bless our font, instruments, lectern, pulpit, and communion table. These are not ours, they belong to the Lord and we commit ourselves and all our labor to making our new space beautiful to God’s glory.
 
The passage above is a part of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple he had just finished constructing in Jerusalem. Now obviously I’m not suggesting that our worship space on 8th Avenue is comparable to the Temple dedication in 1 Kings 8, however I do believe God is honored as we dedicate our new space for worship unto the Lord. We know God is not constrained to only sacred spaces, however as Solomon says, God honors prayers offered by His people gathered in sacred spaces if His name is glorified in that place.
 
May Servants of Christ Anglican Church at 3530 NW 8th Avenue always be a place where God’s people gather in prayer, proclaim the glory of God, and demonstrate the good news that in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness for all!
 
Onward and Upward,
 


For A New Generation

 
Our “Great Treasure Hunt” has come to an end. I cannot express how grateful I am for each person who volunteered their time and energy last week to make VBS happen. We had volunteers of all ages who filled numerous roles. We had drivers who picked up families so they could attend VBS, a live band, a snack creator, group leaders, recreation leaders, and story-tellers that brought God’s Word to life. These are just some of the roles our volunteers tackled. Here at Servants of Christ you showed what a true servant of Christ looks like. For those of you who were praying from home and keeping us in your thoughts, thank you. We felt the Holy Spirit moving, and we know He was there protecting and guiding us this week. Thank you all for filling these valuable rolls so we could help the kingdom of God grow. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
 

This week gave me a glimpse into the future of our Children’s and Youth Ministries at Servants. We are growing, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in amazing ways. We had an average of forty children, ages 2-10 years old, attend VBS this year. We also had amazing youth volunteers. When I reflect on this, I see forty plus lives that we have the privilege to help disciple for Christ. 

The exciting news is that this school year our Club 456, that is our 4th-6th grade discipleship group, could double in size. Wednesday nights during the school year our 4th through 12th graders meet for food, fellowship, and discipleship. They learn from each other. They support one another through their words and actions. The older students mentor the younger ones. The younger students breathe new life into the ministry. Some of you have helped with meals, transportation, or volunteered on Wednesday nights. We are so grateful for all of those ministries. If you are feeling lead or hear the Holy Spirit tugging at you, we’d love your continued support.

This Sunday we need your prayers. We are going to ask our students and their parents to stand up. We’ll pray over the students for the upcoming school year. I don’t know if you know this, but being a kid is hard. There is so much pressure put on our children these days, it’s exhausting just listening to them. They can’t just run outside and play after school anymore. They can’t come back in when the street lights go on. They are startled by almost every noise and wary of everyone. They don’t know what it’s like to not have a phone to look at. Trust me, separating them from their phone is akin to separating them from their hand. I covet your prayers for them. If we make the commitment to remember our young people and their families in your prayers each day, we can start to show them what the active love of Christ looks like. We all need a little extra lift each day.

Please take the time to get to know our students. They are quite amazing. They have been blessed with so many different skills and talents. They love serving in different roles, but they are young. Did you know that several of our youth were not raised in church and have no spiritual guidance at home. These youth don’t have parents who are connected to Servants or any other church body. They desperately need spiritual mentors. All of our young people need mature Christians who will speak God’s truth into their lives. I know that loving them can sometimes require a large amount of grace, but we’ve been entrusted with a remarkable opportunity to grow the kingdom. How can you get to know them? Just come up and start a conversation.

Last but certainly not least, you can join us. Join us on Sunday mornings in Children’s Church. Come to our family events and hang out with our young families. Come fellowship on Wednesday nights with the youth. The last Wednesday of every month is game night. This is where you see them in their element. Join the transportation team, and help give the students who want to be there a ride. There are so many ways you can serve.

As verse 4 says in Psalm 78, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” That generation is among us. The time is now. Let them know all the wondrous things God has done in your life.



Toward Common Prayer

 
Greetings from the Mountains of Virginia. After completing my second Doctorate of Ministry class at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania last week, I’m off on the Appalachian Trail for a few days of vacation. Many of you know that I try to walk the trail for a short section with my brother Zack. This year we move into southern Virginia. My mind is full of new ideas and spiritual insights from the class, and I’m sure by the time I see you June 24th, there will be much to share. I hope you too will be enjoying some Sabbath rest this summer.
 
I write to you today, to let you know that on July 1 we will be making a few small changes to our Sunday liturgy. I want you to know that I don’t take these changes lightly and I’m aware that the idea of liturgy is that you will know the service and allow it to flow from your heart as a habit of spiritual formation. Liturgy reminds us that we are a part of something that is much bigger than us. I’m of course referring to the Church, the Body of Christ in the world.
 
So why are we making changes to our liturgy? Short answer: to be in step with our communion, the Anglican Church in North America. As some of you know, our province has been working on an approved liturgy for North America and these few changes are the last adjustments before the new prayer book is ready for publishing some time in 2019. This is very exciting as we’ve been without a printed prayer book now for 13 years. If we don’t adopt these changes will be out of step with our sister Anglican churches, and that is not the idea of common prayer.
 
There is one bit of news that I hope you will find exciting in these changes. The new prayer book allows for the response to “The Lord be with you,” to return to the familiar “And also with you.” This is actually just an option, but as we are currently the only ACNA church I am aware of that uses, “And with your Spirit,” we will take the option and return to those familiar words. I think most of you will be pleased. The reason we are making the small changes to the liturgy is the same reason we are returning to “And also with you,” namely, so that we can pray in union with our sister ACNA churches.
 
I will see you this Sunday and we will continue to journey together in God’s mission in Gainesville. In the meantime, please pray for me on the trail and all of those Anglican leaders gathered in Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference.
 
May the Shalom of God rest upon your hearts,


With Thankfulness to God

 
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:15-17

 

In the passage above, the Apostle Paul wraps up his summary to the Church in Colossi with three reminders of thanksgiving. First, as Christ rules your heart producing peace, “be thankful.” This is our salvation; Christ has brought us peace. Second, as a member of the body we are to minister to one another through teaching, admonishing, and singing “with thankfulness.” And third, as we go about our lives, whatever you do, do it in obedience to Christ, “giving thanks to God the Father.” So whether it is our salvation, our life as a Church community, or our work and activity individually - Paul says it is to be smothered in thanksgiving.
 
This is a reminder as I write this article, which is once again filled with my own thanksgiving. Paul would say, “and so it should!” So much is in transition with our new buildings, and I continue to give thanks for how the Lord calls His people to labor for the common effort to ready a place for worship and ministry. Last Sunday, I failed to mention that thirty people came out to clean, paint, repair, trim, pressure wash, organize, and improve our facilities. Thanks to all who showed up. If you couldn’t make last Saturday, consider coming out for gutter cleaning at Littlewood this weekend. Then last Tuesday a team of seven women and men arrived to tear into what was the Theater room, working tirelessly to remove the choir steps so that this multi-purpose room can better serve our children, youth, and adults. When you’re by the church next, peek in to see how much floor space was created by our demolition team! Well done.
 
I also need to thank some folks from outside our church who blessed us this week. First, Amanda Allen, a local photographer, who blessed us with the pictures from our Pentecost service. The photos will be incorporated into our website and available to view there and on social media shortly. Amanda has graciously given us these photos for free. Bless you, Amanda, for capturing our Grand Opening and also allowing us to visually show the community of SOC to all those who visit us online. Then, second, I must acknowledge Jason Stefansen (brother of our prayer intercessor Scott Stefansen), who on his vacation from work as lighting expert, volunteered to come down to Gainesville to work on our spotlights in the Sanctuary. Jason got two spotlights working for this Sunday, which means you will actually be able to see the faces of our clergy and servers, plus it brings more light into the Sanctuary as a whole. Jason has already promised to come back and do some more work with our lighting and electrical system. Thank you, Jason. Third, Jason’s work could not have been accomplished without the loan of a lift from Westwood Hills Church of God. How generous this church has been to us in loaning their lift. Also, special thanks to our own Bill McCrea, who is the keeper of the lift while it’s in our possession. Yes ladies, that’s the large piece of equipment you see on the way to the women’s bathroom on Sundays. (Just temporary, I promise).
 
Lastly, I want to end this article by acknowledging Mrs. Susan Staley. For the past two and a half years, Susan has been an amazing administrative asset to SOC. First volunteering one day a week, then two days, finally becoming our office administrator last year, Susan has brought organization to the office and has given care for the details of running a church office a new level of excellence. Some of you may know that Susan has learned to play the dulcimer over the last few years and so now has felt a calling to leave her administration ministry for a music ministry to the sick and dying. If you visit a hospital or hospice care, you may hear or see Susan ministering to the care givers or patients there. Susan will be greatly missed in the office but we are grateful for these years of ministry and bless her in her calling to music ministry. Susan, we are so thankful for your willingness to use your gifts for the building up of our congregation.
 
So you see, fellow servants, there is just a lot to be thankful for in this season of our life together. Please continue to pray for safety for our volunteer workers and contractors, and also for those in the body traveling during the summer. While you are away, don’t forget that you can view our services live on Facebook each Sunday and, of course, give financially online. Our giving to the Lord is one of the tangible expressions of our thanksgiving for all the Lord is doing in our lives.
 
 
Onward and Upward,
 


It’s All About Timing

 
Our church took an important step as a parish when we purchased our own space April 5th. The first fruit of that step was evident in the worship we experienced in our first two services in our new sanctuary. Not unlike the purchase of a first home, there is a level of maturity that comes for a congregation that moves into its own space. Now as I repeatedly tell the story of our new church home to different people outside the congregation, I can see God’s provision and timing even more clearly. I firmly believe this was the right decision and the right time to buy a building.
 
What about you? No, I’m not asking you whether you think it was the right timing, but I am asking is this the right time for you to take the next step in your own commitment to this body and our ministries in and out of our church walls. I like to think our relationship with God is like riding a bike. A bike has two pedals; the Christian life also has two pedals. For followers of Christ, one pedal is our faith in God; the other pedal is our response in obedient action. And like riding a bike, it’s much easier and enjoyable when you are moving forward!
 
Is the Lord calling you to join Servants officially? Are you ready to take a place on a ministry team? Is there a burning passion to serve in a particular place that you’ve been reluctant to mention? Already our church is experiencing growth in attendance just over these first two weeks (even though I asked folks to wait until May 20th, haha). If you have been around SOC for a while, you will likely be asked to consider a place of service or ministry. Could this be your own moment to step up?

 

Onward & upward,
Alex +


And so the work begins…

 
Our first Sunday in our new worship space is almost here! After closing on April 5th, our facility team began working with great speed and determination in preparation for this weekend. As I write to you, the new carpet is about to be laid in our sanctuary (around the altar). Our pews are now sitting in the nave (see we have to learn to use the proper liturgical terms again) and the gifted statue of “Jesus the Good Shepherd” will shortly be moved from the Langelands’ home to the narthex (area outside the doors of the nave) where people will gather before and after the service. This is a very exciting time in the life of our parish.
 
There a so many folks to thank for this process including the great number of volunteers who have showed up since the 5th of April to clean and prepare our new space. I do want to especially acknowledge some folks who have done the “heavy lifting” in this process. First, Ramona Chance who offered legal advice and worked diligently to help us form the condominium association, and acquire our financing. Also Ken Langeland, our junior warden, who worked tirelessly with the vestry to negotiate the purchase and is now working with our facility team. Last but not least, Daryl Johnston, who heads up our facility team. Daryl is managing our moving process and is leading a great group of leaders who are tackling a long list of “to do” items. I owe a great deal to these three people for keeping us on track over the last six months. Please let them know how much you appreciate them for their hard work.
 
Sunday is not the finish line. Some of you will recall those were the words of Bishop Neil when he was with us in March. Although this has been a day we have prayed for and longed to see – especially those of us who have been here since our first service January 8, 2006 – we cannot rest now that God has given us a permanent home. Sunday is just the beginning of our life as a parish within a secure base from which to minister to our community. That is why I think it is especially important that in the midst of our move, we have adopted a parish-wide initiative to “Love Littlewood.” Littlewood Elementary is right next door and Justin Smith and his team are leading us in ways to bless Littlewood. Several servants have begun offering tutoring and mentoring at the school; several more participated in the running of their carnival in March. This past Saturday, nine of us were privileged to clean the gutters of the school. I encourage all of you to speak with Justin about ways you can “Love Littlewood” with us. We have also begun a transportation ministry: thanks to all of you who have offered rides. You are a blessing to many who otherwise couldn’t get to church.
 
A couple of things to keep in mind: there will be a need for interior painting and light moving over the next couple of weeks. Please contact the church office if you have some time to volunteer. Our facility team will definitely need your help. Secondly, while we start worshiping in the new space this week, we recommend inviting new people to our May 20th service (Pentecost) so that we have a couple of weeks to work out the kinks. Third, for the month of May, our children will continue to use rooms B-5 and B-6 as usual. This will allow the facility team to prepare our new spaces for the kids once the church space is ready. Lastly, please remember your regular tithe plus offerings for our building fund during this time of transition. I am so thankful for the generosity of this congregation.
 
And so the work begins and ministry continues. Together we are offering a redemptive experience of the Church to our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. What could be more important?
 
Onward and Upward,


Not My Will, But Yours – Day 40

 
The theme of the devotionals has been calling; many have found and are living out their calling, but many of us don’t feel one or aren’t in the position yet to live it out (incidentally, I’m in this third group). What do we do about that?
 
One answer is to pray about it, and trust in the Lord to reveal it to you. This is good advice, but we don’t dictate the Lord’s timing. It may be years before you feel a calling. It may be never. So what do we do in the meantime?
 
This is a question that faces all of us. The church is living in the meantime between the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus and His return, when all will be put to rights, when at the name of the Lord, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. But that hasn’t happened yet. It may not in our lifetimes. So, again, what do we do in the meantime?
 
This question looms large in the background of the epistles. Then as now, there’s an inherent tension between waiting, as when the scriptures repeatedly instruct us to wait on the Lord, and doing, as when Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. This is a tension that has to be worked out, prayerfully, in each of our lives; there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. And yet the scriptures and the Church provide guidance to us. Each Sunday, Fr. Alex or Fr. James dismisses us with the exhortation to go into the world “to do the work You have given us to do, to love and serve You as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”
 
This would be a difficult thing even if we weren’t sinful creatures. Calling or no, discerning the work He has given us to do is no easy task. I believe wisdom consists in knowing how to apply what we know to what we do in the world. It is both God-given and hard-earned. So what are we to do if we don’t have enough wisdom for a given situation? We cannot simply “follow our heart,” because we know that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV) We often don’t even desire what the Lord desires, let alone know how to bring it about.
 
I think the answer must be to pray for wisdom and to act, trusting that the Lord will transform our desires, guide our paths, and bring us to our calling, even if we don’t yet know what it is.
 
For now, we pray along with Jesus in Gethsemane, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”
 
 
 
Justin Shoemaker
 
 
 
Justin came to Servants three years ago. He’s a scribe in an emergency room in Palatka, FL and volunteers at youth group each Wednesday. He enjoys readings and playing soccer, and would usually rather be skiing.


When There’s No Calling – Day 39

 
The question of calling has always been a difficult one for me. I have often struggled with the desire for a specific mission in life – a primary focus that would unite the various aspects of life. But I don't feel that I have that clear calling. At times, I assume that it must be my own fault, that I don’t have the proper relationship with God and am not seeking to hear Him fervently. At other times, I assume that different people need different things, and God hasn’t seen fit to provide me with that focused mission that others seem to have. There is probably truth in both.
 
It was somewhat ironic to me a few weeks ago when Fr. Alex mentioned me in his sermon on calling. Among the list of people who have a clear calling – such as David to leading music and Mary to intercessory prayer – he included me, listing several places of service. (I would contend that my actual service is less impressive than he would have my "resume" sound, but I digress.) The irony to me was that I don't feel like a very good example of calling. Some might say I have the spiritual gift of helps, which I would describe as "doing the job that's needed." I don't know whether this can or should be considered a calling. It certainly does not meet my traditional definition.
 
So what do I do with that? I serve where I can. I work with several people to lead a community group that gathers monthly to strengthen relationships and serve together. This last fall, I had the opportunity to lead a financial class with Adrienne. I play music on Sunday with the music team. And other odds and ends such as organizing the AV team.
 
What do all of these things have in common? Nothing, as far as I know, except that they are opportunities to serve. I continue to wrestle with the question of calling. I continue to pray for clarity and direction. And I continue to serve.
 
Perhaps this is a question with which you also wrestle. I would encourage you to step out and do something. Be intentional, seek the Lord's direction, but then go. Don't let your uncertainty keep you from the opportunities that God has placed in front of you.
 
 
Jose Boada
 
 
Jose joined Servants in 2006 and has served in various capacities over the years. Outside of Servants he enjoys Gator sports with his wife Adrienne and their daughter Audrey.