I wanted to share with you all how exciting things are here at Milner these days. Your Session met and moved forward on the final approval for Life Together Raleigh, a non-profit, that will be using some upstairs space to operate a center for assisting people through transitions in homelessness, joblessness, and other life situations.Your Session also heard a proposal from Santuario to put the church's athletic field in to more continuous service as a means of mission and ministry through a youth soccer and leadership program to begin in March 2018. Things are definitely getting exciting around here and I hope you agree. I would like to reiterate that if you are able to provide additional support through time, talent or treasure, now is a great time to do so. God's work requires our on-going support and commitment. May God's name be praised and may the great work God is doing through Milner continue to grow and bless the community around us.
With all that's going on in the world, it might help for us to remember the strength of being a connectional church. This means that we here at Milner are not the "whole" body but act as part and in concert with other members of the body across our region and denomination.We don't need to respond to every event and every disaster equally as different parts of the body are equipped to respond in different, mutually constructive ways. But, we should respond in the way which best matches the strengths, gifts, and call of Milner.
Here are some links to other members of the body:
New Hope Presbytery: www.nhpresbytery.org
Salem Presbytery: www.salempresbytery.org
Coastal Carolina Presbytery: www.presbycc.org
Presbyterian Church (USA): www.pcusa.org
Of course, there are many more and I hope from time to time you'll click on these links and see what's there!
What a wonderful worship service yesterday! The Lord's Table was an amazing gift to those gathered in the sanctuary yesterday as three congregations - Santuario, Joy of Discovery, and Milner Memorial - gathered to break bread and lift up in praise our Risen Lord. It was more than words can express and furthered deepened the joy of our life together.
God is amazing and is doing amazing things in our midst...certainly we can see and perceive it. We are seeing added energy, growing worship numbers, new mission ideas, partnerships emerging, and our campus is getting some much needed care and uplift. God is good and let us continue to pray and serve our Awesome God.
So, in the weeks and months ahead we will be working on alignment here at Milner. You all have done much of the hard, up front work of our interim period (believe it or not we are halfway through our year together!) and now we have to use that work to guide our decisions going forward.
Some decisions have already been made with your input and work, so much so that the Session has moved more swiftly than it might have done without your support! The Session has blessed the congregation's desire to be a welcoming place for other faith communities and non-profits with concrete examples of support and inclusion. As we move forward into this mission we will need to make sure our other decisions are in "alignment".
Are our financial decisions with regard to staffing in support of our mission goals? Is our use of space in the church constructive with our goals for mission or are they at cross purposes? Are we encouraging use by outside groups of spaces and areas like the athletic field that remain underused and underutilized? These are alignment questions. We have to ask them so that when we make decisions we make them with our goals and mission in mind, not simply out of reflex based upon what we've done before or what we think we should have.
I'll be preparing more conversation times going forward with a possible congregational gathering in November for the purpose of alignment conversations. Some of these will be about property, some about staffing, and some will be about Milner's use of space in the building itself. I hope you'll be as excited by these conversations as I am. They will sharpen our focus and free up resources, financial and otherwise, in the pursuit of our mission goals.
Your Session voted last week to approve The Raleigh Center coming into the upstairs area of Milner. The approval did have one precondition which regards the security plan for The Raleigh Center. Once they have shared that plan with the Session and Session further approves, the contract will be signed and we will welcome another group into this creative space at 1950 New Bern Avenue!
It has been a very good summer for Milner. We welcomed Joy of Discovery and The Raleigh Center, both of which will be great partners for Milner and Santuario. Both of these groups will contribute financially to Milner's efforts to upkeep and maintain the building and campus. Both groups will seek opportunities to share in mission and ministry. And, both groups will from time to time be with us in worship. God is blessing our prayer-filled work to reconnect Milner with the surrounding community!
Thanks to each and all of you for working so hard this summer to complete our interim tasks and to help us arrive together at the place we now find ourselves. Since confirming our mission/vision we are now ready to lay on objectives and goals along with a timeline for meeting them.
We Welcome All.
In Faith, In Love, In Service.
This is who we are and desire to be: a community based in hospitality and support for those around us. As we move forward into this vision, be thinking about ways we already serve this goal and how we might do it better. Let's stretch a little bit farther for the work God is leading us to and let us be confident that God will grant us what we need to fulfill it!
What does it mean that Presbyterians are "connectional" and not "congregational"?
For many of us Presbyterians, we take it on faith that all the different parts of our denominational system work together for the good of the whole. And, that as each part does its respective work the other parts enjoy the opportunity to celebrate successes and offer support in times of challenge. To be a connected church means that we are never truly alone, that we always have within reach the strength and support of other denominational bodies, and that we have a responsibility to care for and pray for the church around us.
This week I will be in Richmond, VA for Monday and Tuesday to participate in the Fall meeting of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic. The Presbyterian Church (USA) is governed by 4 governing bodies: the Session (local church), the Presbytery (an often geographical grouping of churches), the Synod (a grouping of presbyteries), and the General Assembly (our national body). These four groups are focused on the support of our primary centers for mission and ministry which is the local congregation. It is the local church which supports and directs the work of the other bodies. Without the local church, the other tiers would not exist!
I will be away to serve and bring home to Milner good news and further challenges in ministry we all face across the mid-Atlantic. I look forward to returning and will gladly share some thoughts and insights from other congregations and leaders I've gleaned while away. Thanks for your blessings in supporting my work in our connectional church. May the fruits of all our efforts bless us in ministry together.
There has been a lot to pray for in the last few weeks and months. We continue as a church to pray for healing across our communities and in our hearts. The racism and violence that has become all too common is no less offensive. We can only speak a word of hope if we are willing to address our own participation and do the hard work of learning, or re-learning, what it means to be in community with all God's children.
There have been recent prayers for those caught in the grip of natural disaster. Here in NC folk are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew. We all know how long the process of recovery really takes. Many of you have already given to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). For that, the Church is grateful.
We have been praying for our brothers and sisters in this congregation and in our sister congregations as so many people, far and wide, struggle with challenges too great for them to handle alone. We pray for the sick, the broken, the injured, the jobless, the hopeless, and more. The needs are great so our prayers must be more numerous.
But, what is prayer? Is it a word, is it an act, is it a posture,...What is prayer for us and to us? I believe that prayer is our time to work out our relationship with God's purpose for us. It is not a time to inform God but for God to inform us. So, we listen, we speak, we lift our hands and hearts. Prayer is the complementary existence of word and action in accord with God's Spirit. Through prayer, we are shaped by God's care.
Let us pray....
For several weeks we will be including in our scripture lessons during worship selections from the Exodus narrative. While Genesis is a story of beginnings, Exodus is a story of bondage and deliverance. Both parts of the Exodus story are important to remember. We are always in need of deliverance from powers we've chosen to serve and from powers which have ensnared us. We are a people always in search of a god who will be to and for us in ways we desire - ways which are not always helpful to us or to humanity.
The news is full of false gods these days. Many of these false gods remain attractive to us even though we know in heart of hearts that they cannot and do not compare to the God we've seen and heard in Jesus Christ. These false gods prey upon our need for security, our notions of success, our feelings of isolation, and our fragile egos which we protect at all cost. These false gods are willing to drain the life out of us and our neighbors if we but give them opportunity.
So, as Christ's followers, we must learn to speak "no" to these false gods and push back against them with the same force they seek to apply in the world. We should resist their unwelcome intrusion into the world created by God for the good of humanity with a word of hope, peace, faith, love and satisfaction that the God of Israel is indeed Lord of our lives. While this may challenge us from time to time it is the good purpose for which we were created. Like the Hebrews in the Exodus, our journey is one where God is leading and we are often seeking other paths to our redemption. We become misguided at times, not by God, but by our desires for a quick-fix, an elevated status, a painless end to our wandering. But, God lives with us in the deliverance as well as the trial, in the wilderness as well as the promised land. God is patient and calls us to trust.
Friends, this may be our wilderness moment as God's people - traveling a well-worn path of racial injustice on the way to a more equitable society. There are no quick-fixes but there's plenty of trial and tribulation. Seek God and live...trust in God who leads and guides us...and with daily fervor and strength call upon the name of God who is our help and salvation.
There are many things to report and many thing which are still in process. By now, many of you have heard and been a part of the Mission/Vision conversations which wrapped up at the end of August (Sunday, August 27 @ 1:30pm in the Sanctuary). These conversations will go forward with the Mission Study Team and then be presented to the Session in September to begin the work of aligning the mission and vision with the Session's leadership.
We still have groups wanting to come and partner with Milner in various ways. Recently, the Building and Grounds Committee heard a proposal from NC State about one of its programs wanting to partner with Milner on a pollinator garden in our front lot. We let them know that we'd like more information. As the academic year gets started, they are going to be in touch and we'll know more soon. If it proceeds, they would do all the work and planting as a classroom project with their students. Also, a group called the Raleigh Center is wishing to partner with us to bring a greater core of ministry to those in transition and crisis to southeast Raleigh by using some space upstairs. The Raleigh Center made a presentation at the August Session meeting. Action on their request is forthcoming.
All in all, we are moving forward even with challenging decisions up ahead. The Session needs to hear from you directly and indirectly. It needs to know where your heart and hands are for mission and ministry. As you interim Pastor, I hope to lead you well into and through this time and pray that God continues to bless my time with you. Thanks for your gift of call and work together in the name of Christ our Lord!
There's something growing around here... and you might say it's an idea about planting. The City of Raleigh is working on the New Bern Corridor with planned improvements over the next few years. One part of these improvements is a sidewalk on our side of New Bern Avenue.
We were approached by some interested community partners about participating in a joint effort through the City of Raleigh and NC State's school of horticulture with an interest to make outdoor classrooms a part of the Corridor project. NC State would bring its students out to the project areas off of New Bern to plan, design, prepare, and see pollinator garden areas. Ann Puryear, Gene Earp, and JD Stanley met with this group and were all in favor of beginning the process to gather more information and scope.
In the end, this would not cost the church anything but would bring activity and investment to the property. Furthermore, it would invite people from the community to come and see what is going on. There may be other additional opportunities that we've yet to think of...