The View from the Ground

When Jesus went into the desert to fast for 40 days, at the end of his time when he was most hungry, thirsty and tired; Satan approached him with a series of offers. One of these offers was to take Jesus to the top of a high mountain to show him all of the Kingdoms below offering them as a prize if only Jesus was willing to fall down and worship him. Of course Jesus responds by quickly and loudly sending Satan away, seeing this offer as the temptation that it was.

In reading this story I always like to think I can easily identify with Jesus. And yet, in reality, sometimes it’s just hard to not believe the lie that we can own all of the kingdoms. That if only we climb high enough, work hard enough, put in the hours and will power; that we can somehow make it on our own.

When we reach these high places of our own making and look around at the “kingdoms” beneath us, it’s easy to feel safe and secure. The problem is that when we build a tower on our own foundation, they tend to collapse pretty quickly. Whether it’s our career, relationships, even spiritual identity. If we’re seeking to get the highest view, eventually we will be brought low.

The irony, however, is that the view from below is far more beautiful than the one from up high. We just need to know what to look for. Instead of trying to master the world and gaze upon a vast array of land and power, when we’re on the ground we get to gaze upon the intricacies of our fellow sisters and brothers. A parent playing with their child, someone helping a neighbor in town, a young couple falling in love. While being brought low may be painful and wreak havoc on our ego, it reminds us that we cannot truly separate ourselves from our fellow people. To succeed in this life is to live in community with one another.

This is the gift I have been given in the last three 1/2 years as pastor of OTR Community Church. Living downtown in Over the Rhine while pastoring a faith community right in the neighborhood has provided a beautifully transformational season where I learned to rely completely upon the people around me. Both Kelly and I have been blessed beyond measure during our time in Over the Rhine and in community with Hyde Park Community UMC.

And now, as God calls us onward to a new stage, we will take the deep life lessons gifted to us over the last few years. God has done miraculous things during our time here and it has been an honor to serve alongside all of you. Thank you all for the gift that has been to be church with you.

Pastor Ian

Hibernation or Participation?

We are currently in the heart of February! The days are still cold and short. The weather often cannot decide between snow and freezing rain. And overall we feel the pull toward hibernation with the rest of creation. There is a general sleepiness that comes with February, where the luster of early winter has dulled but Spring is still a ways off.

For me personally, February is always a month that tempts me to be complacent. To just wait for Spring to come before I’m active again. It’s easy to want to just hunker down, stay home as much as possible and shut out the rest of the world. And while many of us need to do a better job of getting rest, Jesus never calls us into complacency. Our God is a God of action, of calling the Church into participation with the work of the Holy Spirit throughout our communities.

As we step into the first days of Lent and begin preparing our hearts for the coming celebration of Easter, may we remember that it’s even in these days of preparation that Jesus invites us into walking with him, just as he did with seemingly every person he encountered in his ministry while on this earth. Whether a random encounter with a woman at a well or a tax collector hiding in a tree, Jesus has always called us to WAKE UP to the work he is doing and joining in.

Pastor Ian

2018 Russia Mission Trip

We are excited to share Christmas with our Partners in Samara, Russia in just a few short weeks. From January 1-8, 2018 we will be visiting Samara to help with ongoing development and training at Samara UMC and the Volga District congregations to develop a stewardship and learning base.

The Power of Connection, Sharing, and Mutuality

When you were younger, who were influential people in your faith journey?

“The number one predictive factor as to whether or not a young Christian will retain his or her faith is whether that person has a meaningful relationship with an older Christian.” -D. Dyck

There is a temptation in the life of the Church to segregate the generations. However the Body of Christ is meant to be multi-generational as we work together to continue the work of Jesus in transforming the world. When generations collide – look out – great things will happen!

In today’s passage, Saint Paul shares how we are ALL adopted children of God. In God’s family, we are all equal and needed. What keeps us connected to the life of the Church is connection to the intergenerational family.

The people who have made the biggest impact on my life aren’t from my generation. C.S. Lewis said that friendship begins when one person says to another, “What! You too?” These highly valued relationships consist of mutual faith sharing, wisdom, wonder, and storytelling.

In a world where it seems that we are more divided than ever, what would it look like to reach out to someone in another generation in 2018? What would it look like to be willing to push through the discomfort, to be quick to listen and slow to speak, to seek common ground and appreciate differences? I’m confident that it would transform lives and bring the Kingdom of God closer to earth.

Peace,

Pastor Kate

Zeal in the Church

As the temperature drops outside and the days get shorter and shorter it’s easy to want to hunker down at home with some hot cider and a good book, and wait for spring. And while we certainly need to take advantage of precious moments of rest in this chaotic world, Paul also encourages us in Romans 12 to not be lacking in zeal when it comes to the work of the church.

Downtown at Over-the-Rhine Community Church, we’ve been eager to follow Paul’s words. In October, a group of 12 headed up to Detroit for a conference hosted by Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), where we had a chance to interact with other churches/organizations doing similar work in similar urban environments. Our time in Detroit was enlightening, encouraging and motivating.

Just at the end of October we also finished our second round of church catechism, which has been the process we use to introduce the history and vision of OTRCC to people interested in deeper participation within the congregation.

Ultimately we have been reminded that zeal is simply the positive energy an individual or group of people feel toward accomplishing a goal. And it’s by this zeal that our role in the church becomes something that gives us joy and fulfillment. I’m excited to be back at Hyde Park on Sunday and talking more about the zeal of the Church!

Pastor Ian

Fun in the Sun at OTRCC

Building a church community of genuine and authentic relationships is hard work. The social constructs of race, class, age, etc. all contribute. It takes intentionality, humility, and a willingness to challenge our fellow sisters and brothers as well as to be challenged by them. God has done some tremendous things within OTR Community Church: building up our breakfast ministry that seeks to dismantle the walls between who serves and who receives, planting a community garden in which our neighbors can enjoy the beauty of creation. It’s been a beautiful yet challenging last couple of years.

This is why we as a community need to know how to play. This summer we’ve held one event each month. The people of OTR Community Church, with other friends and family, have come together simply for the purpose of having fun and enjoying each other’s company. In June, we headed down to Fountain Square for Reggae Night and folks relaxed and danced. July was our kayak/canoe trip on the Little Miami, and we enjoyed the slow current, hot sun and awesome friendships. Later on this month we’ll all be gathering for a good ol’ fashioned baseball game at the All American Ballpark.

These moments carve out spaces in our busy lives in which we can begin to learn how to appreciate the moments with the people who mean the most to us. We’ve seen friendships deepen over the summer and new faces joining in. The challenges of our church community do not end, but they become a blessed struggle as our church identity looks more and more like a family of sisters and brothers. We are, after all, called to be the Body of Christ, made up by many members. This summer has been a wonderful opportunity to step into that calling in a very tangible way.

Pastor Ian

An Update from Over- the- Rhine

We’ve had a number of exciting things going on in Over-the-Rhine. In an ongoing effort to be the Church in our community, our sisters and brothers at Over-the-Rhine Community Church (OTRCC) are continuing to discern ways in which God is calling us out. One current initiative is to transform our vacant lot at the corner of 14th and Race into a permaculture community garden. With “green space” in Over-the-Rhine shrinking quickly, our goal is to use this land not only as a way to grow local food, but to invite our neighbors into building a community space together.

Additionally, back in February, the OTRCC Lead Team relaunched the longstanding breakfast ministry. Now at 9:30 am, this meal is seeking to create a space in OTR where all people are able to interact as neighbors, peers and friends. Formerly, these meals relied heavily upon volunteers from partnering churches; they are now fully run by the local community. We have a few core leaders from OTRCC who make sure the breakfast is functioning each week, but the bulk of the work falls to anyone who shows up for the meal and who is willing to help!

Every person is encouraged to help with the meal AND sit at the table, regardless of where they live- an apartment, a house, or the street. In this way, we are stepping into God’s Kingdom where there truly is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, “Us” and “Them”; for we are all one in Christ Jesus! You can find a video of our new breakfast on the OTRCC website, otrcc.org, under “media”. All are welcome!

If you are interested in participating in any of the exciting things mentioned above or in OTRCC in general, please contact Pastor Ian Strickland at istrickland@hpcumc.org. And be sure to join the OTRCC email list at otrcc.org.

West Ohio Annual Conference 2016

The West Ohio Annual conference began with almost 3000 clergy and laity gathering at Lakeside, Ohio in early June.  Each day began with a powerful worship experience with preaching by Bishop Palmer and guest bishops from other conferences.  Holy Communion is celebrated.  Worship is an inspiring way to start each day, and it sets the tone for all of us to work together in the unity of the Spirit.

For me, the gift of being a lay delegate is to see the best of our connectional church.  It is about learning what our church is doing for mission and outreach in the state of Ohio, the U.S., and the world.  It is learning about new initiatives which the conference, districts, and the local church are doing to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world. It is seeing how others are serving to transform the world.

The business portion of the conference was non-controversial this year.  There were five recommendations which were discussed and voted on:  Finance and Administration; Equitable Compensation; Pension and Health Benefits; sale of Camp Asbury; and a study regarding the benefits and costs of the Missional Church Consultation Initiative.  Two years ago we started using the electronic voting process so the actual voting took a lot less time than in the past when we said “Yea or Nay”; raised our hands, or had a written ballot.  The administrative and parliamentary procedures may be cumbersome and sometimes tedious (at least for me), but the gift is that everyone has “voice and vote”, and we are part of the holy conferencing process, the solutions, and the future of the United Methodist Church.

We affirm the new clergy who are commissioned or ordained as local pastors, deacons, or elders (including our very own Pastor Ian Strickland at OTRCC).  New clergy appointments are announced by Bishop Palmer.  We celebrate the retiring clergy who have served us well for many years (although I don’t believe a pastor ever retires).  And we honor the saints and spouses who have gone before us with deep reverence and appreciation.  Certified lay ministers and other missional lay leaders in the West Ohio are recognized as well for their faithful service.

Every year I am moved when over 3000 people stand and sing the hymn, “Lift High the Cross.” And every year I cry as I sing this hymn.   I pray asking God what He wants me to let go of and how I am best to serve Him.  Let us all celebrate and sing, “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore his sacred name.”

-submitted by Diane Weaver

I Choose You!

Close to 1,600 people were blessed through the five worship services offered Christmas Eve.  It was a wonderful evening of celebration, contemplation, and spiritual renewal.  At the 4:00 pm family service I shared my alternative text to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I have been asked by a number of people to share the text with the congregation.  The following is my concluding comments Christmas Eve.

God breaks into our world and proclaims: I choose you!  Rudolph’s song is our song.  You know the beloved song of Rudolph; through the birth of Christ Jesus, God rewrites the song for you and me:

Children of God our creator
Unique in every way
You are God’s beloved
Despite what others say.

All of the other children
May bully and reject your claim
Calling you an outsider
Darkness and discouragement came.

On this foggy Christmas Eve
The angel comes to say:
People who have lost your way,
God has chosen you this day!

Oh how my life’s transformed then
Beloved by God this night.
Gifted and accepted
I am God’s redeemed ‘n loving light!

Join us this Sunday as we continue with our sermon series, Resolutions.  Through Jesus Christ, God broke into our world and offers us life, love, healing, and wholeness.  Everyday we choose how we respond to this gift.  Resolve in 2016 to live positively as you embrace God’s gift.

In Christ,
Doug