Ann Lamott wrote a book about how our three most essential prayers are Help, Thanks, and Wow. After being at Murphy FUMC for almost two months now, I kind of think she’s right.
I have had a tremendous amount of fun with our series of Home Gatherings, and I am so grateful for the folks who have been willing to host them. All said and done, we had 8 Gatherings with 103 people participating. Wow–that’s wonderful! Thank you to everyone who hosted and participated!
The Home Gatherings were simple. They were a time for me to get to know as many people as possible, and to listen for what God’s been doing in their lives and the life of FUMC. I always asked the same questions:
- What is your name? What brought you to First Murphy? and What keeps you coming back?
- Tell a story about when you saw First Murphy at its best. What was going on? Who was there? What was it like?
- What are you proudest of right now at First Murphy?
- How has God made a difference in your life through the church?
- How has God made a difference in the community through the church?
- What are we already really good at, that God might want us to do even better?
The Gatherings weren’t strategic planning sessions where we devised a 5-point vision for First Murphy for the next three years. Instead, it was a time for storytelling. I love a good story. And everyone has one! You are living one now.
I was blessed to hear so many stories about what God has done and is doing in your lives and in this congregation. I have tried to retell some of them in my sermons on Sunday mornings. There was the story about how a high school student lost everything in a house fire, and by the time one a teacher (who is also a member) called the church, one of our UMW circles was already busy buying clothes and supplies for the student. Then there was the story about how another student had to complete a descriptive writing assignment on the subject of “Home”, and she brought a photograph of First Murphy. I loved how one person said that when she was sick, her beside was surrounded by cards from the church, and it was like getting a big hug.
Of course, you told lots of funny stories too! Stories about sitting in the same pew, about fun times in MYF or Alpha, about the hilarity and hazards of decorating for Christmas. You know, the sorts of stories a family tells when they’re all gathered around in the living room.
Family. Home. That’s how every group described First Murphy–from folks who’ve been here 50 years to those who’ve just recently moved to town. That’s how the New Testament writers described church too. They said we are all God’s children, not by birthright or because of our own effort, but because we’ve been adopted by his grace, and made into brothers and sisters with one another. That’s a beautiful kind of family.
In our Home Gatherings, after celebrating what God has done and is doing, we started to dream about what God will do in you and in this congregation. This is an exciting time to be at First Murphy! I know I’m still new, but I’ve learned more than enough to see what a special community this is–rich in gifts, experience, heart, and love. This church has been blessed by years of wise and faithful pastoral and lay leadership, and I am beyond grateful for their ministry!
It was a gift for me to get to hear your stories, and I want you to hear the some of the stories that you may have missed or haven’t heard before. So for the next few weeks, I’ll try to echo back to you the wonderful things I’ve heard from this church. And I’ll invite you to join me in paying attention to and celebrate what God has done and is doing in First Murphy, and to dream about what God will do as together we try to keep up with the Spirit.