Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Arrival of Sar Shalom

So, why have I been away from blogging for so long? The short version of the story is a very good one.

A Messianic Jewish congregation that used to exist in Springfield, the next town over, restarted at Shavuot time. It's new name is Sar Shalom. P'nei Adonai and Sar Shalom have been working on cooperating together and eventually merging.

This other congregation was not what it should have been when I first arrived in the area in 2003. Among other things, when I met with the people who were then leading it they saw my calling as different enough from theirs that I should start a second congregation even though it was so nearby. In retrospect, I think one reason God arranged that was so that P'nei Adonai could carry on the visible and community-based work of Messianic Judaism as that other congregation faded away and vanished.

The current plans for an eventual merge are encouraging to me because, in an important sense, they are a second attempt at what should have happened four years ago.

My calling and gifting focus on discipling others and teshuvah (repentance) that leads people to experience more of God's presence. Four years ago, if that other congregation had been healthier, and I had known what I now do about my calling and gifting, it would have made a lot of sense for me to join that congregation and assist it by helping run how it did discipleship and teshuvah.

The leader of Sar Shalom is much more focused on the morning Shabbat service. This is what he feels his calling and gifting focus on. A few months ago, if he had come to P'nei Adonai instead of pursuing restarting the Springfield congregation, it would have made a lot of sense for him to join my congregation and assist it by helping run our Shabbat and holiday services.

The plans for the eventual merged congregation seem largely a third restatement of these previous two opportunities, but with the added benefit of healing some old wounds left in the community. (This healing is happening through the process of that other congregation reviving and spending time as its own healthy entity before merging.) The community will eventually come to a place where myself and the other leader share in leading, with my energy focused on discipleship and teshuvah and his energy focused on running services.

I am very much enjoying how the other leader and I encourage, support, and teach each other.

That's the short version of the story, which as I said is a good report.

The longer version is why I have not had time or attentiveness to blog yet this summer. There have been countless phone calls, e-mails, meetings, and prayer times about the congregational cooperation and merging just to allow the process to be happening well. Many people are involved, almost all of which have important insights and skills they bring to the drawing board. There have also been countless other phone calls, e-mails, meetings, and prayer times when miscommunication or pride were obstructing what God wanted to do.

Moreover, none of these were appropriate material for a public blog. This blog is often a useful place for me to write in an effort to help process my thoughts more fully. But for the past two months I could not blog about the issues I was dealing with, for doing so would either violate people's privacy, be very inappropriate and rude, or both.

In any case, the third part of my summer has started. (The first part is the short time after the community college term ends and before the MJAA Messiah Conference. The second part is the month between the conference and my anniversary vacation. The third part lasts from after my vacation until I restart college teaching.) I returned from vacation to 99 unread non-spam e-mails, a slew of phone messages, and my embarrassingly large to-do pile on my desk. I would love to take off another two days from work so I could call and write to friends and family who have not heard from me in months. But there is too much to do. So I am restarting my blogging so people can at least know what is going on in my life this way.

May God also be accomplishing his will in your life, and in your community through you!

May you have more of a summer vacation than I do!