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Church!

The last couple days in Pittsburgh have been very typical Pittsburgh days, cloudy all day, with occasional rain to mix it up a little bit.  All I can say, I’m glad this weather is coming now and now when we were at camp, this would have been an awful week to have kids.  Plus, with a chance of storms coming tomorrow and Thursday, it looks like its going to be much of the same.  Lovely!

So, yesterday was my first trip back to church as a staff member.  I was there on Sunday for worship, but yesterday I participated in my first meeting.  Northmont, where my official title is “Seminary Intern”, is where I’ve been attending the entire time I’ve been in seminary, and where I was on staff last year and played fill-in youth pastor for six months.  This year I’m still helping out with both youth groups, but Sean, the new youth pastor, is firmly in charge and doing a fine job.  However, youth programs run better when you have more leaders, so I’m still going to help out.  Plus, for a few times in October, when he’s not there, I’ll be running youth group again.  

This year however, my focus is going to be the small groups at church. In fact, I’ve come up with a fancy title ā€“ Small Group Ministry Coordinator.   We have a few small groups running now.  We have one that meets on Sunday night after our evening worship service, two that are scheduled to meet throughout the week, one at Eat ‘N Park, the other at someone’s home.  The Presbyterian women also have two bible studies that meet throughout the week and follow the Horizon’s Bible Study curriculum produced by the PW national office.  Last year we had one or two groups that met on Wednesday night and went through a couple different things.  But, it is safe to say that up and until now, small groups have existed but without much structure or support from the staff.  

I firmly believe that one of the keys to church development (note ā€“ I didn’t say church growth) is promoting genuine Christian fellowship.  Christians are not solo flyers and were never intended to be.  As important as corporate worship is, corporate worship is not the setting for true Christian fellowship to exist.  That requires a small group of people, a group of people where people care truly feel cared for and know that they can share their burdens and joys.  A place where people can ask honest and open questions about faith and life, without feeling as though they’re being judged.  Questions such as “How do we know that Jesus is the Son of God?” or “Is Jesus the Son of God” are not considered out of bounds, but in fact are encouraged.  Ultimately, the church is about the worship of God and carrying out God’s mission in the world.  The problem is that when people don’t know what God’s mission for the church is the church can’t be about the business of it.  The mission of the church is multi-faceted to say the least.  Yet, Christian fellowship is a vital part of all of it.  So, what are we going to do?  Well, the plan right now is to start planning a church-wide small group campaign to kick off in November and run through Advent.  That leaves this month to plan it, October to push it and train group leaders, and November to kick it off.  Tentatively we’re planning another one during lent but we’ll see how the first one goes.  The hope is that some of the groups that are together for the six weeks or so end up staying together for continuing small groups.  That obviously won’t happen with all of them, but we’re hoping it happens with some.  I’m also going to exist to provide support to current small group leaders and help them find resources.  There’s one big problem, I have no budget, so I’m going to end up mooching off of the Christian Ed budget, which isn’t exactly ideal.  But, we’ll do what we need to do.  I’m also going to be leading a small group aimed at people between the ages of 18-35 hopefully on Monday nights.  So, those are my two tasks to get the year started.  Oh yeah, I’m also teaching the “Transitions” Sunday school class along with Sean.  That’ll be fun, especially since most weeks I’m predicting we’ll have two kids, but that’ll be okay too.  

Well, I am off to make this a productive day.  I got the okay from one of my professors to do a 1 credit independent study with him reading from Karl Barth.  Surprisingly, he wants me to work on III.4, which is the end of Barth’s doctrine of creation where turns his discussion of creation into a discussion of the ethical implications of creation.  This is probably good for me, since Ethics are one area that I really haven’t spent much time since I’ve been in seminary.  I had thought he’d have me work from 1.1 (The Doctrine of the Word of God) or 2.1 (The Doctrine of God), but this is good too.  Twenty pages per week, a reading log, and a short (6-8 page) paper at the end of the term.  Between this, my Scientific Theology class, my course on the theology of the Reformed Confessions, and my class on Church and Sacraments, I’m taking no less than 4 courses (8 credits) worth of theology courses this term.  Wow, I couldn’t be more excited (honestly!).  The only bummer, Hebrew.  

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