“Where are you finding energy and light in your area of ministry?”
Elizabeth Sherwood, administrative pastor
Within seconds my brain and heart know the answer is “RRC!” The several meetings of the Refugee Response Committee have been huge God sightings for me. I have been blown away by the number of folks who want to lean into the task of discerning how we can interact with one of the largest humanitarian crises of our day. I initially thought a handful of folks would be interested, but the e-mail list of participants has now grown to 42. North Valley, Clackamas Park, and Tigard Friends have also joined us in exploring what we can do collectively. I am grateful to be a part of a community who desires to find tangible ways to express the love of Christ.
I have also been so grateful for the many folks who serve behind the scenes. This month will include four memorial services for dear friends. There is never a shortage of volunteers to bake cookies or host receptions. Committees meet regularly as busy people give up their evenings to do the work of the church. I deeply appreciate the YM representatives, the trustees, the nominating committee, the cemetery board, the stewards, and the elders, who give of their time and talents to our community. The coffee team along with the ushers and greeters create a warm welcome for our gatherings on Sunday mornings. It is always an encouragement to look around and see the many ways people serve in our community.
Eric Muhr, youth ministries
Nearly a week ago, half a dozen high school students from NFC joined others from around the yearly meeting at Eugene Friends for a weekend retreat. We worshiped together, ate together, played together, and one afternoon – in the pouring rain – we went door to door in downtown Eugene, collecting canned food to help restock a food distribution center there.
While we were in Eugene, a lot of our students were still here in Newberg, gathering together on Sunday morning for middle and high school Sunday school as well as for worship during second service.
On Monday night, our middle school teaching team prayed for students and worked on Sunday school plans for the next six weeks. On Wednesday morning, almost a dozen high school girls met for a Bible study at Chapters; and on Wednesday afternoon, a group of middle school boys gathered at the Friends Center gym for an hour of futsal, a soccer-style game.
Wednesday night, nearly 80 students and adults crowded into the Friends Center basement for youth group. On Friday night, almost 40 middle school students and adults crowded into that same basement for a pancake supper before loading up vehicles for the trip to Sky High, a trampoline gym in Tigard. On Sunday morning, we started all over again.
Over the last six years, we’ve been reminding students that church isn’t much more than keeping Jesus as our focus while we’re also learning to show up for each other. We cook pancakes together. We enjoy cups of coffee (or coffee-flavored drinks) while reading the Bible and trying to figure out what to do with it. We sit in a circle in Sunday school. We crowd next to each other in vans on the way to Sky High. We run around the gym. We talk in small groups about times we’ve experienced fear and how God has given us comfort.
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes from Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” This, then, is where I’m finding light in the darkest season of the year. God is doing this work in us, teaching us how to be together, how to show up for one another, how to live together in unity. And even in the pouring rain, as we hike from house to house, asking the people we meet if they can help us help others, God gives us joy.
Michelle Akins, children and family ministries
Seeing Light in the “Basement”
At NFC, most children’s programming happens downstairs. While our Sunday school classrooms are not technically in a basement, our kids can feel set apart from the rest of what’s happening at NFC. Perhaps that’s part of the problem. For folks going to first service, it’s possible to not even be aware that 40-60 children are being cared for and engaged in Christian education. At least during 2nd service the children tromp out to their classes, and we have a visible reminder that our body is alive with people of all ages.
I’m not necessarily advocating for more tromping, but I wonder if more of us made an effort to visit “the basement” to see what was happening down there, would it make a difference? Check in with Pam Jackson and Debbie Doolin; hear their enthusiasm for kindergartners. Stop and ask what Heidi Tschan and Kent Moore have been pondering to teach our 3rd and 4th graders. Sit in on a class of 5th graders with Ken Howe and Mike Foster and soak in their wisdom. Wander through the hall and hear the melodic voices of Miriam Staples and Davida Brown as they sing with 3-year-olds. There’s a lot of Light in our basement.
For all the beautiful things happening, we have a classic children’s ministry issue – never quite enough teachers and volunteers during the month. Our classrooms in both 1st and 2nd service, upstairs and downstairs, need a few more of us to make a commitment. Almost every week I find myself begging on Facebook and via e-mail for more help. I’m grateful we are usually able to fill in the gaps, but not always. Last Sunday it was evident staffing our Children’s Care (playtime for preschoolers) wasn’t coming together, and I was going to be subbing once again as Storyteller in Godly Play. I love teaching kids, but for my own spiritual health and as part of the pastoral/worship planning team, I also need to be able to go to church. Too many Sundays had gone by with me teaching during both services due to lack of volunteers. I texted Gregg Saturday night and he was generous to say we should just cancel both, allowing for me to finally stay put in the pew!
I know cancelling or having to combine classes puts a burden on parents and, most important, our children. For the most part, our kids are flexible and understanding, but I will always believe that consistency in our classrooms is best. Begging for volunteers, to be blunt, gets old. It gets old for me – and I have to imagine if you’re one of the people who sees my posts week after week, it’s not fun for you either. For those of you who continue to answer me, thank you! We could not make it through month after month without your willingness to pitch in. Our subs have been Light to me on so many occasions. My prayer is for about five more regularly scheduled volunteers, less begging, and more soaking in the love of God’s incredible transforming light as we interact with our amazing children.
Nolan Staples, worship ministries
As I began to think about areas of light or encouragement in NFC music ministry, I first thought of specific ensembles, people, and Sundays that have been a blessing. But then I realized that a real area of light I see and want to highlight and encourage us is our effort to be diverse in our worship together.
We get to see various people, voices, styles, instruments, songs, beliefs, convictions, ages, gifts, and abilities represented up front from week to week, and that is beautiful. We want to be a community that embraces and celebrates its diversity. When we can be together with open arms and hearts and with loving attitudes toward each one, then our worship is so much more meaningful and authentic. I think the key is to hold this open posture even when the music (or any other aspect of our time together) isn’t comfortable to you. It’s perfectly normal to recognize discomfort within yourself and to reflect on its source, but I think it’s possible to make a choice to stay engaged even when things are unfamiliar. This is not always easy, yet it is important.
It seems to me we are on the right track when we are able to worship together with many different songs and styles – even when sometimes it’s not my favorite song, and other times it’s not your favorite style. I hope we can keep finding ways to lean into our diversity more and more. I don’t want to feel stagnant in a community that is comfortable because everyone shares my point of view or my preferences in how to do things. I want us to be able to stretch one another, learn from one another, and love one another. As we we participate in the music, we experience another opportunity to live into being together in our differences.
I strive to be flexible in the way we plan music for Sunday mornings, and if you are feeling led to explore the possibility of being involved in some capacity (it could be joining musically, or it could be offering some ideas about how our gathered worship together – musically and otherwise – can be fresh and authentic and inclusive), please let me know! I am encouraged that we are a community of people who value our differences and can care for one another in the way we worship together on Sunday mornings and throughout the week. Let’s keep pushing into that!
Cindy Johnson, senior ministries
Many things bring a light to me or to others in my ministry. In fact, just the other day I visited with one of “my people” while she did her laundry. She didn’t feel good, but knew it would pass, or so she hoped. Soon she needed to get her clothes out of the dryer, so I asked If I could help. She felt a little sheepish, as she did not want to bother me with it. But I ended up helping her fold and carry her laundry up to her room, and we continued to visit. I went away blessed and hoped she felt loved also.
Visiting with shut-ins and knowing how much they appreciate a visit from the outside world, and I am asked to please come back anytime.
Friendly Visitors, who enjoy visiting with shut-ins, also bring me light as they join the ministry of caring and listening.
After caring, visiting, praying, laughing, and just chatting, I come away feeling blessed and rejuvenated. I thank the Lord for his light that shines through each of us.
Gregg Koskela, lead pastor
I’ve been working harder lately to notice things to be thankful for, and I really have been seeing the slow, steady beauty of service in so many people’s lives in our church. Many times it’s people quietly serving at church: Alan Akins setting up microphones countless times, Ann Howe greeting people as they enter the sanctuary, Pat and Ron Auld setting up coffee in the library, Patty Findley giving Jim Carter a ride home after church.
Other times, I hear of people watching out for each other in their homes: Starla Osburn going the extra mile for a woman in our church, countless people taking meals to others in need, carpooling and tutoring and babysitting for each other…it’s beautiful.
I can walk into almost any school in our community, and find NFC people serving kids. Any of the service organizations–whether Habitat for Humanity or FISH or Chehalem Youth and Family Services or Love INC or YCAP–we’ve got people day in and day out meeting others’ needs. We have people serving on City Council and the Planning Commission, coaching youth sports teams, supporting Valley Repertory Theatre, pulling shots of espresso, offering therapy, serving as nurses…it’s truly awe inspiring when I stop and think.
I am stopping more. And thinking. And gratefully thanking God for all the ways so many of you are being salt and light in our community, in our world. Thank you!
Steve Fawver, spiritual health and care
Isn’t it interesting when someone apologizes in advance before they even start speaking? “I am sorry in advance…” As I write this pastoral report to the NFC community I want you to know in advance—I am not sorry. I am not sorry for talking about the joy and gift of my upcoming sabbatical. I am actually really excited and find it encouraging to realize that my sabbatical is less than three months away! I will be gone from April 18 to August 18. This excitement is not because I am eager to get away from all of you, overwhelmed or stressed out, or don’t enjoy what I do. Rather, I do relish the opportunity to be free to embrace a new rhythm of life as never before: four months with no set schedule, to-do lists, or intense demands on time. I anticipate this gift deeply and find it very encouraging.
I am encouraged by the chance to learn, grow, and deepen in my life with God as I live with the community of monks at the Lafayette Trappist Abbey from mid-April through mid-May.
I am encouraged by the chance to deepen roots as we explore our family heritage in Scotland and Switzerland. It has already been life giving as we make arrangements for places to stay, sites to see, and people to visit.
I am encouraged by the chance to deepen roots as we explore our Quaker heritage in England. I will carry a prayerful heart as we hike up Pendle Hill, be attentive to God’s movement as we stay at Swarthmoore Hall, and be open to new perspectives as we see other important sites.
I am encouraged to be able to enter a season or Sabbath rest like none I have ever had. This is truly a gift and I find my heart full with the anticipation of letting God work deep within me, our family, and the community here at NFC. I suppose the only thing I am sorry for is that I can’t take you all with me on our trip. Wouldn’t that be fun?