t’s hard to move on from the Newtown discussion; the sadness of the horrific event is always going to be a part of Christmas 2012. But this morning I want to share a few words about our church that point to the hope and the promise that reside at the heart of Christmas, regardless of the evil.
PARTY PARTY! So Monday evening Rebekah and I hosted the First Presbyterian Church of Brandon staff Christmas party, along with their “significant others.” There are only three – including me – missing from the photograph.
Talk about your fun evening! We managed to squeeze in 26 places at three tables, and the spread of food was better than a feast.
We talked, we laughed, and then we gathered around the tree to participate in our traditional “Take a number then either unwrap a present or steal from someone else” gift exchange.
It’s impossible to guess ahead of time what the “hot” presents will be (massage-therapy stones? Home-made pre-lit converted wine-bottle/Christmas tree? Amazon gift code?). Regardless, the consequent shenanigans led to much – impossible to explain in 500-words or less – hilarity.
THE POINT: Anyway, the point of sharing this story is to talk about the phenomenal, positive, pervasive spirit of love and support and encouragement that animates our church staff.
I talk all the time about how wonderful our church is, and I’m not just spouting off because Rebekah is the pastor. What’s going on at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon is a real, verifiable phenomenon. But it’s impossible to talk about how awesome our church is without considering the following two factors:
- The leadership team
- The staff
Rebekah will tell anyone who wants to know that the most important element of her job is to love, train, equip and support the church leaders. Things like great preaching, phenomenal music, top-notch pastoral care, cutting edge Christian-education and other attributes are all important; but it’s a leadership culture built on love, trust, and mutual respect that defines the ministry here.
So Monday evening, when I looked out across our family room to see the church staff (Tim, Earl, Joyce, Mark, Don, Kelly, Andy, Steve, Kathy, Kevin, Debbie, Dylan, Kathy, Sue, Jimmie, Vanessa) plus their significant-others, I breathed a prayer of gratitude for the amazing group of people Rebekah gets to work with every day.
Nothing around here happens in isolation. It’s all built on relationships, and grounded in the inclusive, generous, directive love of God through Jesus.
HOPE and PROMISE: And that brings us back to the beginning, the pain and the horror of Newtown, Connecticut. This is why Jesus came. The world is a terribly broken place, and the purpose of the church is not to condemn, but to offer light, and life, and hope, and healing.
Christmas is the celebration of Hope and Promise.
I am so thankful to be part of a church community where the message is one of hope, promise, grace, love and reconciliation. And I am thankful beyond measure for the men and women who work every day to translate that promise into action, both our elders and the most excellent church staff.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.