I recently enrolled in an online course through the Ministry Training Program at Phillips Seminary. It's a class about congregational leadership and administration. So naturally I'm thinking about that topic a lot these days. I'm reminded of the strong lay leaders of Hillside's past and present. Our governing bodies, the Finance Team and the Board of Directors are policy and decision-making bodies. Our Circle of Elders are spiritual and pastoral care leaders. Healthy congregations have clear roles for various leadership groups. These distinctions grow clearer as we continue to develop our ministry teams for their specific roles.
As for the season of Lent, it never really starts for me until after the Ash Wednesday service. The morning is spent in preparation for a day and evening of marking with ash. There's something on this side of the imposition of ashes that is divinely humbling. You've entrusted your spiritual care to me, and I in turn work at training up a volunteer group for the work of congregational care. Our Elder's are truly an extension of the pastoral care given by clergy. The Care Clusters are one way we make that happen. This work of caring for the spiritual needs of one another is not something I take lightly, it is perhaps the culmination of the work of congregational ministry.
After the service Ash Wednesday service I was taken aside by one of our Elders. They mentioned that I hadn't had the opportunity to receive the mark of ash myself. They escorted me to the table, laden with last year's dried palm branches and a single white candle. We held hands, and they imposed the ashes on my forehead - a gesture that in that moment I took as a reminder of the tall order we ascribe to as disciples of Jesus; we are here for one another to journey along a path toward Jesus.
My eyes water a bit in remembrance of this act, now just 14 hours in my past. Even as we're just a day into the season of Lent, I cannot help but proclaim an Easter theme: "I know my redeemer lives!" because I've seen and experienced the divine presence in the genuine care of a friend.
Open yourselves, dear friends, to the caring acts shared with you, and recognize therein the Christ of our faith who walks this journey from shadow to light with us. What a holy way to ...
Be Excellent To Each Other!
- Rev. Andy Beck