A Hidden Promise

Growing up in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains, I came to love Autumn—the crisp air, the smell of wood burning, and the beautiful colors decorating the hillsides. Each year, since the day I left, I get homesick during the month of October as I long for the beauty of mountains painted red, orange, and yellow. I know I’m not alone in this, as it was not uncommon to run into people driving through the hillsides, randomly stopping to soak in the color.

As I was driving around the district last week, I began to reflect on the beauty of this season. At the height of Autumn, all the leaves on a tree might adopt some radiant color, yet this is not their greatest achievement. I have come to believe, that the moment of greatest beauty comes not in the vitality of their original green, or in the miraculous changing of color, but rather I find it in a tree’s willingness to let their leaves fall.

By letting go, the tree ensures its outward beauty will continue. The leaves that remain at the base of a tree decompose and release nutrients to the topsoil which benefit the forest ecosystem throughout the year. And then with the arrival of Spring, the tree that appeared to be dead begins to blossom anew as pristine leaves reveal themselves. If the tree instead refused to let go, there would be no new nutrients to sustain the diversity of life we find in every forest and we would be robbed of the beauty of Spring.

Much like those who drive through the hillsides of the Northeast, we, in the church, often believe that beauty is found in the vibrancy of color. Many imagine that the most beautiful and vibrant congregations are those with hundreds, if not thousands of members, large youth groups, extensive programs for children, numerous educational events, significant missional opportunities, financial sustainability, and a pastoral staff that can visit all members regularly and preach amazing sermons every week. This type of beauty is more about our outward appearance and what we can provide in the form of programs and staff to members.

To read more from Cara, click here.

Change your spiritual life in 5 minutes a day

By the Rev. Cara Scriven | Tacoma District Superintendent

By the time I arrive home with my youngest girls each evening, everyone is hungry and the first thing the twins ask for is a snack. Often times, this declaration that they are starving begins as soon as their feet cross the threshold of our home. To the girls dismay, it is difficult to prepare them a snack before I have taken off my coat and put down my things. I frequently have to remind them to be patient. Yet, for two five year-olds, five minutes is a lifetime away.

Children are not the only ones for whom patience is difficult. Adults have an equally difficult time with this fruit of the Spirit. Impatience has grown as we have become accustomed to receiving whatever we desire instantaneously. For example, we get frustrated if a web page takes longer than 5 seconds to load or if we have to wait three weeks for the delivery of the newest iPhone.  With music, information, and movies at our finger tips, television shows on demand, and Amazon Prime 2 day shipping; it is difficult for us to learn patience.

Impatience is not only visible in our secular lives; it has also permeated our spiritual ones. Today, we expect that if we give one hour a week to God, whether in worship or small groups, we should experience a deep and meaningful spiritual life. However when we study the great saints of the Christian faith, we realize that it takes decades and hours of attention to gain the  kind of spirituality many are seeking.  It is no surprise then that in our society which values quik responses, many of us give up searching for spiritual depth before we have even really begun.

Read more of Cara’s post here: http://www.pnwumc.org/news/change-your-spiritual-life-in-5-minutes-a-day/

Seasonal Anxiety

BY THE REV. CARA SCRIVEN | TACOMA DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

2010Aut_Fall-horizontal UW Tacoma

photo courtesy of UW Tacoma

This morning one of my youngest daughters asked, “Mom, is it Fall yet?” I responded with, “Yes, it is Fall.” I know this partly because it is cooler in the mornings and the grass in our front yard is greening as it gets a reprieve from the hot summer sun. However, I wouldn’t need to step outside to know that Autumn has arrived. I would only need to pay attention to my body.

Over the last few weeks that body has gotten increasingly tense as I prepared to send my eldest daughter to Middle School for the first time and my youngest children to Kindergarten. These normal transitions coupled with a move over the summer for our family has left my shoulders as knotted up as Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, my breath, too short and shallow, and my emotions as grounded as my daughter will be the first time she is caught making out with a boy. Simply put, this year, the fall for me is full of anxiety.

Over the last several decades, the church has become increasingly aware that “Fall” has arrived. We live in a perpetual state of dread akin to the popular television show where, “Winter is (always) Coming.” For many churches, the season has brought with it a decrease in membership and worship attendance, fewer younger families and youth, and less financial resources to do much about it. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, despite trying a variety of different strategies to respond, the church finds itself short of breath, shoulders locked in position, and full of emotional tension.

Click here to read the rest of Cara’s latest Post…

The Asthmatic Church

BY THE REV. CARA SCRIVEN | TACOMA DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma is “a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath”. For some, asthma is a minor problem but for many people, and even relatively healthy people like myself, this condition can be a life threatening issue.

When a person with asthma has an attack, the ability to breath becomes quite difficult rather quickly. It doesn’t take me long to recognize an attack in the making. First, my breathing becomes difficult so I begin to hunch over in an attempt to gain more air into my lungs. Then when my breathing is more labored, I begin to cough and wheeze. Before long, I find myself getting more anxious and my breath shorter and more shallow. This in turn makes me more anxious, creating in the end, a vicious cycle which often makes a mild attack much worse.

For some time now, so many of our mainline churches have been experiencing something akin to an asthma attack. As the church began to decline in membership, our collective breathing became more difficult. In an attempt to draw more air into our lungs, we have tried all sorts of things: new worship services, outreach events, projection screens, trainings, small groups, church plants, etc. After each new attempt, we discovered that the metrics we expected to increase, did not. And each failed exercise ratcheted up our anxiety making it more difficult to make healthy decisions about our future.

None of the practices I mentioned are bad things. In fact, our collective negligence in doing them likely precipitated our metaphorical asthma attack. The problem arises when we engage in the spiritual and physical work of the church from a state of desperation; as our shallow breathing limits the risks we might take to live out our understanding of the Gospel and our anxiety undermines the spirit through which we take them.

When I experience an asthma attack, the best thing for me to do is to take several slow deep breathes. To do this, I must stay focused on my breathing; I accomplish this by counting. I take a deep breath in for two counts and then I exhale for two counts. This practice does not prevent my asthma attack but remembering to breathe gives me the necessary time to allow my body to recover, often with the help of an inhaler.

A similar process could be used within the church. As we continue to experience decline, perhaps if we pause, take a deep breath, and focus on the essential task of listening to the Spirit we will reduce the anxiety we feel. This of course will not stop the decline, however, it may help us discern the best way for the church to join God in the next new thing God is doing in our world.

Welcoming the Stranger

By the Rev. Cara Scriven | Tacoma District Superintendent

As a pastor serving a local church, I enjoyed preaching and worshiping with my congregation but I did miss sitting with my family each week. While I am only a couple of weeks into my new position, I am enjoying visiting churches within the District on Sunday mornings with my family.

I know that as a preacher I was always nervous when the district superintendent arrived; I’ll try my best to remember that. I often wondered if I did enough to prepare and if they would take note of all of my mistakes. With the roles reversed I’m finding that I do notice good preaching and preparation but they are not the primary thing I am interested in each Sunday. Instead, my attention is repeatedly drawn to the hospitality that is offered to visitors upon arrival.

Click here to read the rest of Cara’s blog post…

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Round Table Take Over for Tracyton UMC

On Wednesday the 25th of June Tracyton UMC will hold a takeover of the Round Table Pizza, in Silverdale from 5:00 to 7:00pm.  We need to fill the restaurant. TUMC will receive 25-40% of the profits for items sold from 5-7pm.  Bring your family and friends, enjoy a pizza and support Tracyton UMC at the same time. Please spread the word!  

Round Table Pizza is located at 3276 N.W. Plaza Rd, Suite 101, Silverdale, WA