Most weeks several of you probably pick-up one of these bulletins, follow it during worship, then leave it in the pew, return it to the table by the door, or put it in the recycle bin in Gould Hall. I understand this. Still, I invest time into how I put this bulletin together, trying to choose liturgy, music, and visual art that enhance worship and the passage of Scripture for the day. Sometimes I go online to search for a cover picture. When I do this I usually put in a search for the Scripture on which I intend to preach: which is what I did last week. When I typed in Mark 4:35-41 this picture on the cover came up on my screen, along with a few others. This one caught my attention, though, because in this gospel story I never thought “love protects” was the primary message. I always believed the focus was on the disciples’ fear because of their individual and collective lack of faith. So, the picture led me to a closer reading of the text. Listen once again:
Last month I participated in a district event called, “Fresh Expressions.” It is a creative and innovative approach to ministry developed in The United Kingdom about twenty years ago. It is the direct and practical consequence of increasing decline in church membership and attendance in combination with increased social isolation among persons and groups in that country. In essence, Fresh Expressions recognizes two things: 1. People are not seeking out churches for traditional worship and membership as in the past. 2. Congregations must find new ways to reach people, especially younger adults, many of whom know nothing or very little about Jesus.
I bought some resource materials at the event and I look forward to discussing them together here at St. Nicholas, because attendance and membership in U.S. churches is no different. Across all denominations and spectrums Christianity is also in a steady decline in this country, during a similar age of increased personal and social isolation. We experience this even in a small town and congregation like ours, where the ebb and flow in attendance varies from 15-35 or so on any given Sunday depending upon competing activities, health, state of mind, or state of belief.