By: Pastor Mary Beth Hartenstein

I recently heard that there is some concern that there just might be too much going on at Hope United Church of Christ.  As a person who highlights my calendar to make sure I can keep track of events and appointments, my schedule is filled with color.  Special events for celebrating our 50th anniversary of mission and ministry, confirmation classes, committee meetings, Eastern Iowa Association events, women’s fellowship meetings and events, The Lunch Bunch outings, home visits and lunch dates, Trunk-or-Treat, Fall Beef Dinner, Friendship potluck are just a few of the events listed on my calendar for October and November.  There are plenty of things happening here at Hope United Church of Christ!

I know…it might seem overwhelming at times to have so many things happening, with opportunities to help or donate or support or participate.  But really…would we want it any other way?

In his book, I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, author Paul Nixon writes, “If we are not focused on growing a new think in an old place, it is very easy to become simply a caretaker of a church in decline.”  He goes on to say, “You may find it hard to imagine any church consciously choosing drudgery.  […] in fact, if there is much fun going on at church, newcomers rarely have to be coached to invite someone else to join them.”

Like Nixon, I do not want to lead a dying church.  One of the many things that I found attractive about Hope UCC when seeking a new call was the fact that this congregation was engaged in a variety of missions and ministries and programs.  Hope UCC appeared to be a happening place.  I hope it will be that for many, many years to come.

Yet, with that said, I do not want us to lose sight of the questions that ought to always be before us:

  • Why are we here?
  • What business are we in?
  • How’s business?
  • What is God calling us to do?
  • What is essential?

Not every ministry, every mission, every program or every event is meant to be for all people.  Yet by offering a variety of opportunities and chances to meet and greet, fellowship and worship, fundraise and have fun, gives us the openings to be with God, with each other, and with the greater community.  It gives us the occasion to be the church – a church alive with the Spirit of God!