August 16, 2017: The 100 Years Letter
Imagine it’s 100 years in the future and you are a new member of Derry Presbyterian Church. The church is still at the corner of Derry and Mansion, but what do you think has changed? Is it a dying church, with only 30 to 40 people sitting in the large sanctuary each Sunday morning and not much ministry and mission happening? Is the parking lot mostly vacant and does building lie dormant most of the week?
Or is the church bustling with life as it is now? Do children fill the halls each day and do people of all ages gather for worship, fellowship, and mission? Is the building constantly full and is life flowing out of the building into the community?
What do you think this church will look like in 100 years?
The future largely depends on the present. Religious scholar and historian Diana Butler Bass recently said, of the current decline in church attendance, that when people had the time and money to do something about the future; they failed to do it. We’ve inherited their lack of foresight.
So, what are we doing now that will affect the future of our church for positive or negative? I’d like you to try an exercise. Imagine you’re that member of Derry Church 100 years from now, and write a letter to the church as it is today. Write a letter of thanks to the people today that are opening the future for those in the church 100 years from today. What gifts, foresight, planning, and ideas that have happened recently will still make an impact in the future? Pretend to look back over 100 years to the things happening now that are vital to the long-term future of this church.
This could be a helpful exercise for our church and our Session. I’d love to see what you write and share those letters with our Session, and perhaps I will share your word of thanks to the people who are opening up the future for us.
I hope by thinking about the church 100 years in the future, and how what we are doing today shapes that future, we can become even more intentional about our present. I hope we can continue to open up the future so Derry continues to be:
a welcoming church family that encourages the congregation to grow in spirit, involvement, and commitment to do God’s work through worship, education, music, mission outreach, and caring.
In common calling,
August 8, 2017: Deep Roots, Fresh Growth, Broad Reach
I have really valued hearing from so many of you through the questions I initially asked of the church and in subsequent conversations. I look forward to continuing to learn about you and about Derry as we continue to meet and as you share with me. There’s so much to know and celebrate at Derry Church!
Derry Presbyterian has been growing in faith since 1724. You have worked to be “a diverse community of believers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to know, glorify, enjoy and serve God in the name of Jesus Christ.” You have Deep Roots so you can grow strong in this vision, but making this vision a reality also requires Fresh Growth. The church reformed is always reforming. We are always changing, as the world changes around us, as needs change, and as our resources change, but there are some things that won’t change. Jesus Christ will always remain the head of the church and we will follow him. We don’t always know where he will lead us, but we know that if we remain in him, we will bear new and fresh fruit (John 15:5).
We never fully achieve what the church should be, but in the words of Paul, we “press on toward to goal,” building on our strong foundation and growing into the future.
Your mission is “To be a welcoming church family that encourages the congregation to grow in spirit, involvement, and commitment to do God’s work through worship, education, music, mission outreach, and caring.” The reason you exist is to grow and nurture followers of Christ. You work to cultivate fresh growth, but you know you rely on your deep roots for that growth. You rely on how deeply rooted you are in your faith and love for Christ. Derry also has many of the resources it does because of those who have come before you. Your roots, your history, is what helps you do the work of growing.
The important growth is the growth of faith, hope, and love. It is the growth of the Kingdom of God through Derry Presbyterian. You have been growing in faith since 1724, so you have a Broad Reach. Your mission, why you exist, isn’t only for the members of Derry. It is for the world. Your roots are deep, your growth is fresh, your heart is big, your mission is vital, your vision is wide, and your reach is broad.
When I think of Derry Presbyterian, I think of Deep Roots, Fresh Growth, and Broad Reach.
In common calling,
August 1, 2017: Broad Reach
We’ve talked about Derry’s Deep Roots and Fresh Growth. This week I want to talk about your Broad Reach.
One of the things that attracted me to Derry was your commitment to mission. Mission isn’t just a committee at Derry—it's the way you are the church. You reach people with the love of God throughout the Hershey and surrounding communities, but also across the world in places like Nicaragua and Pakistan.
The Kingdom reaches far through the efforts of Derry Church and its members. You reach into the lives of children, youth, and adults. You provide educational opportunities, fellowship opportunities, and unconditional love and welcome when it is needed most. You brighten people’s lives with donated flowers and you fill people’s stomachs with donated food. You provide educational and economic opportunities for women in Pakistan and build homes for families in Nicaragua. You built a mission house so Love Inc., which does so much good, has a place for an office. You make blankets, plant gardens, teach skills, give scholarships, and support so many others in mission work that wouldn’t be possible without your generous support. Their work is your work. You have such a broad reach.
Your reach isn’t limited to official church programs or missions. The branches that grow from the strong and sturdy trunk of Derry Presbyterian, with its deep roots, include all your members who live as disciples of Christ, the pastors who grew up at Derry and were supported through seminary, and all the lives this church has touched. Your branches grow in number every day, and the canopy of Derry Presbyterian is always expanding, reaching out further and further.
Derry Presbyterian isn’t a church that exists for itself. You are not a congregation that is looking to be served, but to serve to and give some of your life away to others: your time, your talent, and your treasures. Some churches are all about the survival of the church and the comfort of its members, but not Derry. You are about following Jesus. You are about growing and nurturing followers of Christ. You are about reaching others with the love and welcome of God that is too good to keep to yourselves.
God has gifted Derry Presbyterian with many gifts, and you have used them for others. You have a long history and an even longer future of loving and serving others. Christ’s hands on earth, which are your hands, have a broad reach at Derry Presbyterian.
But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot out your branches, and yield your fruit to my people Israel; for they shall soon come home. See now, I am for you; I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. ~ Ezekiel 36:8-9
In common calling,