Spiritual Care & Development

First Monday

This month, First Monday will gather on the second Monday, January 8, due to New Year’s Day. Our January presentation will be on health care advocacy and planning for older adults from Sara Ganser, a Social Worker at St. Mary’s Hospital. Our potluck lunch begins at 11:00 a.m., with the program starting around noon.

First Monday is a gathering of folks aged 50+ who meet for fellowship and fun on the first Monday of each month, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. We meet in the Great Room at PUMC for a potluck lunch followed by the program. Bring a friend and a dish to pass. If you have questions about First Monday, please contact Pastor Kate, ksweet@peoplesumc.org.

Growth Groups Update

There were 45 people who participated in our fall season of Growth Groups! The Discipleship team received great feedback on how these groups helped folks connect with others, grow in their faith, and learn to live out their faith in the world. We are so grateful to all those who gave of their time and talents to facilitate our groups this fall.

Whether you’re a seasoned small group aficionado or a newbie who’s never tried a Growth Group before, please consider joining one for our Spring season. Groups begin again the week of February 18th and run for 8 weeks. Groups vary by topic, interest, life-stage, or schedule. There will be a chance to sign up at the Growth Group fair on February 4th and 11th between services, or after the 5 p.m. service on February 3rd and 10th.

Why join a Growth Group? Because no one should do faith on their own. While personal retreat and private spiritual experiences are great, we believe that people were created by a relational God to be in loving relationships with one another. We grow best in relationship!

Spiritual Care & Development

Most people have attempted a “New Year’s resolution” at one time or another. Despite all good intentions, most resolutions fail. In fact, one study found that less than half of people who made a New Year’s resolution still considered themselves “on track” when followed up-with in June. And, nearly one-quarter of these folks had already abandoned their resolution after only two weeks!

Why are we so likely to break our resolutions? Well, that’s because change is hard—and how we get to lasting change is often counter-intuitive.

Our Christian faith tells us that growth and change is part of following Jesus. Yet, this change doesn’t happen because of our own strength, but because of the strength of God’s love for us. There is a deep-seated myth in our American culture that if you just try hard enough, you’ll succeed. While it’s true that hard work does sometimes pay off, there are some situations in which you can’t just muscle your way through. Deep, lasting, soul-change is one of those things that depends more on grace than determination.

The Twelve-Step program, first championed by Alcoholics Anonymous, famously begins its first three steps with this kind of letting go:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Grace is something that we give ourselves over to within the reality of our lives, not something that we do for ourselves in order to escape our reality. Catholic priest Richard Rohr reflects, “The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.” We recognize that we need God’s presence and care in order to heal our wounds and our mistakes. When we reach the deepest depths of this care we encounter a Love that whispers, “You are enough.” An encounter with this kind of love is life-changing. Consider this quote, again from Richard Rohr:

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.

Some people might say that this “lets people off the hook,” or overlooks “bad behavior.” I believe this is shortsighted. Living with this depth of kindness and self-acceptance is truly countercultural; it is unfamiliar to us, and therefore it takes more practice, patience, and awareness than self-punishment or self-justification does.

One way we can start to lean into this grace is through prayer and practicing “letting go” in the presence of God. Because we don’t naturally accept grace, we must develop practices that help us become more skilled in doing so. Richard Foster, a Quaker theologian and author of many books on spiritual disciplines, writes,

To pray is to change. This is a great grace. How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.

If you’re new to this kind of prayer, I’d encourage you to take a look at the Practice@People’s blog post from November, which explored Centering Prayer. You can find the post at: https://peoplesumc.org/news/2017/11/13/practicepeoples-centering-prayer . If Richard Rohr’s quotes caught your attention, I’d recommend his new book, Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.

May you experience the grace and peace of Christ this New Year as you practice letting go, receiving kindness, and embracing the love of God that gives us our hope for change.

Women’s Retreat Day at Sugar River UMC - Present Over Perfect: A day of Reflection and Practice

Sugar River UMC in Verona will be hosting a Women’s Event titled Present Over Perfect: A day of Reflection and Practice on Saturday, January 20, 2018, 9 am – 3 pm. This gathering will take place at Sugar Rive Church, 415 West Verona Ave, Verona.

In the video Bible study called Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living, we will join bestselling author Shauna Niequist as she shares her story. Through 5 short videos, she offers an invitation to a new way of living—full of grace, love, and connection. Come gather with us as we hear from Shauna, connect with other women and dive into this relevant topic together.

You can register online at the Sugar River United Methodist Church website: https://www.sugarriverumc.org/ If you have questions, please contact Lori Holmes: lholmes@chorus.net

Grace and Peace, Kate Sweet, Pastor of Spiritual Care & Development

Sue Koch