Monday, July 29, 2019

Book on meal church

A book on "dinner church" that is helpful! Some thoughts I had.

We Will Feast – Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of God, by Kendall Vanderslice

  • Order pizza and have it delivered. People can bring side dishes if they want – not obligated, or should we not even do that?
  • Start with just once a month
  • Try to get FAC to join us
  • “Bookend” bread and wine: Start with breaking and passing bread, then eat, then end with passing the juice
  • No schedules or lists for volunteers! Whoever comes pitches in. This way it doesn’t feel like yet another obligation to fill.
  • No sound or PP, no microphones, acoustical and unplugged
  • Tables and chairs in the back of the sanctuary where we have natural light from the windows
  • Possible order:
    • Stand in circle for bread breaking and passing
    • Get in line and get pizza on plate
    • Go to table
    • Singing first – 3 songs and prayer.
    • Everyone starts eating
    • Sermon while continuing and finishing eating.
    • Conversation prompts? Lectio divina? discussion around the table.
    • Holy ground rules – p. 86
    • Pass the juice around the table
    • Closing song
    • Clean up
  • No nursery so we don’t need nursery volunteers? Set up a small corner in back with the slide and climbing things from the nursery, and kids table and chairs with paper and crayons? Maybe no toys because that causes fights and would mean moms/dads would have to intervene more. (Sharing is hard.)
  • 5 minute breaks to allow questions and reflections a few times during sermon. Keep short so it’s not a Bible study, but allows some dialog and space for questions. (Bible study can make visitors feel excluded.)
To include in communications to church
  • Gospel – ministry of meals – p. 3, 14 – list of meals
  • Eating together central, not just because Jesus happened to have bread and wine – p. 17. More pp. 167-168.
  • Jesus didn’t first ask us to believe the right things but to practice them – p. 169
  • Community is central – p. 35. Use Betsy’s story about “doing life together.”
  • As world becomes more divided, digital and impersonal, sit together and eat, share communion remembering Christ. Something powerful happens at the table – p. 4
  • You don’t have to agree. Lively debate. – p. 6. Holy ground rules – p. 86
  • Dinner church not perfect – p. 9. Not a cool space – p. 88
  • Don’t make it complicated, don’t let the meal become a status symbol. Purpose is to build a life-giving community – p. 81
  • Full meal together as worship, Jesus present in all life, even mundane – p. 35 – Reformed world and life view!
  • Sabbath is not a reprieve from life, but putting an end to the restlessness that prevents a deep engagement with life, space to take delight in the fruits of our labor – p. 28

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bouncy balls -- or not

“Who here comes from a two-parent family?” Many hands raised. “How many of you went to college?” Most hands in the room raised. Monika Grasley from Micah 6:8 * (see information below!) asked a couple more questions to those of us at Classis Central California ** (see information below), then told us we may think we are normal, but we actually are the ones that are not normal, Most people in the world do not come from families and homes similar to what most of us attending this meeting do.

As she walked up to the front of the room, Monika set two balls on the table. One was a tennis ball and the other looked like a steel ball bearing about the size of the tennis ball. As she talked, Monika bounced the tennis ball. She told us a story of a group of churchgoers who went into the city to evangelize. They saw a group of guys and a little girl, maybe around 9 years old, and approached them. They shared the gospel with them and were thrilled that everyone in the group said they accepted Jesus.

Monika told how the evangelizers came home excited to report that this little girl and the guys with her were converted, their lives were changed, hallelujah! “But in reality, you know what happened to that little 9 year old girl? She was probably raped at home.” Lives are often not changed by a conversion experience.

Then Monika explained the reason for the two balls. She bounced the tennis ball -- catching it and then letting it go, up and down, up and down -- and talked about resiliency -- how when you have resiliency and hard things happen to you, you can bounce back like that tennis ball. But for many people, they are more like the ball bearing. She let that drop, and PLOP, there it stayed. There was no bouncing back.

What good things to remember as we live and share our faith with others. For many of us, certainly bad things happen. We struggle, we grieve, we lose people we love, we don’t always get what we want or need, but we have resiliency. We are able to bounce back. How do we live with, love, and share our faith with the many people who are like that ball bearing, who do not have resiliency, who cannot bounce back?

Micah 6:8 is a team within Classis to equip our churches and individuals to develop a deeper heart for our marginalized community members, to address issues of injustice and bring tools to help our churches to be stewards of our resources by not only doing mercy ministry but also by looking at systemic issues of justice. 
Monika Grasley
LifeLine CDC (Community Development Corporation)

** The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) has a governance structure that deals with matters such as doctrine, ethical issues, and church life and practice. This structure involves the church assemblies: the council (local assembly of the elders, deacons and minister(s) of a congregation), the classis(regional assembly), and the synod (bi-national [Canada and U.S.A.] assembly). The structure is as follows:
Note: The CRC speaks of our major assemblies as broader, not higher, assemblies. Therefore, the grid is horizontal, not vertical. (from

The story continues

So, here we are, months from the last time I posted about Hineni. We have a pastor and we are doing some planning for the future. I don't think I'll continue the Hineni group, but I am thinking about continuing to blog about the church and what we are doing.

Right now, I wanted to post a little story of what we saw at our last Classis meeting. It really struck me. I've been thinking about it ever since. It's the next entry.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


I listened to this podcast today, “Speaking With Joy,” the episode called “Disappointment.” described in this blog, hosted by Joy Clarkson. What a lot to think about! If you have an hour (maybe on your commute?), listen to this. Joy speaks of the millennial generation and the disappointment they embody. I had never thought about that myself, but it makes a lot of sense. I also thought about disappointment in relation to our church.

Joy uses songs from a band, the movie “Lavender Ladies,” and Wendell Berry’s novel, Hannah Coulter to illustrate disappointment. I also was reminded of an old Lake Wobegon story that Garrison Keillor told called “Tomato Butt.” In it, he describes the misery of being a child in the hot, humid summer of the midwest with no air conditioning, and the special agony of living next door to someone who has an air conditioning unit. He and his family has to listen to the neighbor’s cooling unit’s hum and cool-making noises as they sweat in the unrelenting heat. When he complains about it to his mother, she says, “Make the best of it.”

Joy, herself a millennial, says:
i don’t want my generation to be defined by their disappointment.
i want us to be defined by what we made of disappointing times.
When describing the movie, she says that one of the two sisters, who are the main characters of the movie, nearly misses the surprise of a new chance of happiness in her life because she is trying to force the fulfillment of an early disappointment in her life. Joy says the movie taught her:
If you have disappointments in life, to be able to live a good life, you have to -- at some point -- put them to rest. And if you don’t let go of them your hands won’t be open to new things, new surprises, to see the new goodness around you. The more that you hold on to the vision of life that you thought your life would be the less you’re able to embrace the good things that come along in your path.
Joy quotes Hannah Coulter thinking:
There is no ‘better place’ than this, not in this world. And it is by the place we’ve got, and our love for it and our keeping of it, that this world is joined to Heaven. . . .
’Something better! Everybody’s talking about something better. The important thing is to feel good and be proud of what you got, don’t matter if it ain’t nothing but a log pen.’
Having been a member of our church for close to 40 years -- and I know some of you have been there even longer! -- and having seen what now seems like “the golden years” of our church history, when we had full pews, lusty singing, multiple small groups, large fun-filled youth groups, and many get-togethers just to enjoy each others’ company, there are times I experience disappointment. I wish we could become again at least some semblance of what we once were. I sometimes go down the rabbit hole of asking what made our church change.

This podcast reminded me to “make the best of it” with “this place we’ve got, and our love for it and our keeping of it,” to put my disappointment to rest and open my hands “to new things, new surprises, the new goodness” around me.

That’s what hineni is, right? Opening our hands and hearts and saying, “Here I am, Lord, ready and willing to do what you ask.” We look forward to the joyful surprises ahead. And all God’s people said,...Amen!
"The more that you hold on to the vision of life that you thought your life would be
the less you’re able to embrace the good things that come along in your path."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Where is Hineni?

sent to the Hineni group today:

You may have noticed (ahem) that we have not had a Hineni meeting for quite some time. At first, I was waiting until October, now I am waiting until after the council retreat Nov. 16, but really I have a confession to make.

Confession: I'm feeling a little discouraged by the book, The Externally Focused Church. I haven't actually gotten more than halfway through, so I know it's not fair to make a judgment yet. And it's a good book. So why am I feeling this way? It's because there are a lot of examples in the book of what other churches are doing, and they sound like more than we could hope to do. It's discouraging.

"Compare and despair." That's what a favorite author of mine says and that's what I try to remember. And there is truth in the book:

One of the most effective ways to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ today is through real and relevant acts of service. Honest, compassionate service can restore credibility to the crucial message we have to share. To tell the truth, we must show the truth. (p. 11)

For the most part, though, our churches have forgotten to show God's love. And all too often, what we show doesn't match up with what we tell. (p. 12)

As we've all heard many times, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." (p. 12)

Right? Of course right! So what's the matter with me?!

I read an article lately where the author said we should talk less about discipling and more about being a friend. I like that! When I'm talking to someone, I'm not real clear on how to disciple, but how to be a friend to that person -- that I can figure out. I've been thinking a lot about this. How can we as a church be better friends to others, to each other, to ourselves, to our community?

We will meet again, and we'll keep talking about "Here we are, Lord, ready and willing to do your will." Please pray. For me, each other, and the church.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Feed my sheep

You are all probably familiar with the gospel story where Jesus asks Peter to feed his sheep. The other day as I read and meditated on it, I wondered what it would be like if Jesus were talking to me instead of Peter. We’re all his disciples, so in a way, Jesus does ask this of each of us. I imagined it like this:

When we had finished eating, Jesus said to me, “Mavis, daughter of Louis, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” I said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Mavis, mother of Cori, Luke, and Zach, do you love me?”

I answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to me, “Mavis, sister in the San Jose CRC family, do you love me?”

I was hurt because Jesus asked me the third time, “Do you love me?” I said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. “

(John 21:15-17)

What does that mean for each of us -- feed Jesus’ sheep? What does it mean for San Jose CRC -- feed Jesus’ sheep?

Hineni means, “Here I am, Lord, ready and willing to do what you ask.” What does he ask? Well, Jesus asks if we love him, and when we say we do, he says to feed His sheep.

What does that mean we’ll do?

In the Fall, as the Hineni team starts meeting together again, we will be talking about what feeding Jesus’ sheep means for San Jose CRC. I hope more of you can join us, and everyone continues to pray.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Summer update, and links

At our last meeting, we decided to take a break during July and August, and come back together in the fall. In the meantime, I promised to email everyone with a link to The Externally Focused Church that we plan to study together next. While looking for links to this book, I found another that is co-authored by one of the same people, plus yet another that is highly recommended as an accompaniment. So there are links to 3 books below. I have not read them all myself but plan to, and I would encourage all of you to. (If purchasing the books is a barrier, email me and I will contact the Council for support.) Note that there is both a paper and Kindle version of each.

I am also sending links to some videos by the authors and about the topic.

I will be communicating with our new pastor, Trent Elders, too. 

Looking forward to learning more about ways to become an externally focused, neighboring church. Please continue to pray, pray, pray as we continue this Hineni journey, ready and willing to accept God's mission for our church!

The Externally Focused Church, by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson

The Neighboring Church: Getting Better at What Jesus Says Matters Most, by Brian Mavis and Rick Rusaw  (and no, I didn't pick this one because the last name of one of the authors is Mavis, but how about that!)

The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon

Good article, "The Externally Focused Small Church"

Good article, "Is Being an Externally Focused Church Enough?"

Videos on The Neighboring Church

Book on meal church

A book on "dinner church" that is helpful! Some thoughts I had. We Will Feast – Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of G...