TRUST: The “HOW” of Sharing the Gospel
Fr. Nathan Baxter
Fall 2018 Schedule Changes: Preparing to Welcome All (Beginning September 9th)
9:30 Worship Service: Family Eucharist (with teaching during the sermon for children ages 3 to 10)
11:00 Fellowship and Hospitality (coffee and refreshments), in Lower Church
11:15 Teaching and Training Together to grow in the way of Jesus through Practical Christian Formation for all ages (intergenerational)
12:00 Practice and Faith in Action- being sent out to do His work in welcoming all
WHY the Changes?
Every week, as we pray the Post-Communion Prayer, we ask God to “send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”
We recognize that part of the work God has given us involves handing on the Life of Jesus to the generations growing up after us. As a church-family on mission we have been wrestling in prayer and conversation to answer the question: “What does it look like to become the people our children and grandchildren want to be around?” (see Fr. Nathan’s June 3rd post from this summer).
We been noticing the comparative scarcity of young people, families, and children among us. At the same time, we’ve been more vividly aware–through participating in Amesbury Days and other outreach opportunities–that Amesbury is filled with many children and families. On both sides of our sanctuary during the weekdays, children and young people and their families go in and out of James Place and the Amesbury Innovation School. Some are connected to communities that know the love of Christ, but many are not connected and don’t know the Life of Jesus.
This is not a new conversation (we’ve been thinking about it off and on for a decade). But it is a new season of commitment to answering these questions and responding to the need and the call.
This year, the Vestry under Chris Sherratt and Fr. Nathan’s leadership made it a goal to prioritize young people and families everywhere and in all things. We’ve begun doing this through a variety of means:
- In the mid- and late-spring, Vestry members visited other churches to experience being a newcomer and to learn how other churches welcomed them and what other churches did for children and young people.
- In early summer, the Vestry commissioned a “Connecting with Amesbury Families” Taskforce to move beyond thinking about how we create opportunities for children and families, and to take steps to make those connections happen. One of those steps is the during-sermon teaching time for children ages 3 to 10 that will be in the Resource Room starting this fall.
- Together, this summer, we have been reading the book, Growing Young, to encourage and challenge us with direction and practical actions we will be discerning and implementing.
All of these steps have lead Fr. Nathan and Vestry leadership to examine and adjust our “business as usual” patterns, including our Sunday morning schedule. Please trust that we’re not rushing into thoughtless changes. But we’re refusing to get trapped in “analysis paralysis.”
The goals behind our Sunday schedule changes are
- To make it easier for families-with-children and for our members who travel from outside the Merrimack region to participate with limited obstacles
- To create opportunities for practical training and teaching on reaching out with the transforming love of Jesus Christ to our Amesbury neighbors–starting on Sunday morning
- To build momentum for stepping into the week, attentive to where God is at work in our ordinary life and more equipped and experienced in joining in God’s work.
An earlier Worship Service, that starts on time and finishes reliably at or before 11am makes it easier for families to invest in worshipping with us: a) because younger children often are awake (and so are their parents) well before 8am; b) because younger kids often start into the midday “hungries” and restlessness by 11am; and c) because families with kids in midday and afternoon sports need an open door they can start walking through with their kids. A 9:30 start removes obstacles related to all three realities. A mid-service opportunity for kids to have an age-fitting teaching time in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd style allows both kids and parents to respond to the ministry of the word and enter into the ministry of the sacrament with more focus and freedom.
The Christian Formation time that will follow the service will be closely linked to the—shorter—sermons and focused around practical next steps in how we could respond in ordinary ways to “love and serve” God and others as “faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” Formation after the service makes it easier for more of the congregation to participate.
Sunday morning will still include a monthly celebration luncheon that will run from noon to 1:00pm, but will regularly be finishing our morning together by 12:00.
This commitment to prioritizing young people and families in our schedule-patterns is just a beginning of other adjustments we will be examining, discerning, and then implementing in the months and years to come.
And so each week, together as a family on mission we will pray and live out more fully and intentionally our post communion prayer:
we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food (in our worship together)
of the most precious body and blood
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ;
and for assuring us in these holy mysteries
that we are living members of the body of your Son, (in our fellowship together)
and heirs of your eternal Kingdom.
And now Father,
send us out to do the work you have given us to do, (equipped and inspired through our teaching and training)
to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
Looking forward to what will unfold as we keep trusting and seeking to grow together in the way of Jesus,
ASAC Vestry: Chris Sherratt, John Haile, Paul Aganski, Nate Etu, Robert Ebersole, Erika McNeil, Jim Craig, Amanda Gonnella, Ticia Ziegler, Bruce McBrien
Connecting with Amesbury Families (CAF) Taskforce: Chris Sherratt, Fr. Nathan Baxter, Cindy Carter, Phyllis Nakyejwe, Cheryl Etu