21st Century Christian Community

James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

by James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

The Christian church is now some 1,980 years on this side of the first Easter which remembered and celebrated the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. We and generations of Christians before us have labored for centuries to carry the Easter message of the transforming love of Jesus Christ to the world. You and I are part of the first generation of North Americans to live in a society that is becoming increasingly ambivalent to the presence of Christianity. Some are even hostile toward the church. The early church shared the gospel of Jesus in a religiously plural, but hostile world. The 21st century has brought Christianity full circle.

Early Christians came together to celebrate their life together with God through prayer, table fellowship, and teaching about the Way. They also went out from the great Temple into the streets to be witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Their message asked persons to embrace the Way of life and the rule of God in their hearts. They established small groups that met in homes for nurture and fellowship. It was through these small groups that a larger sense of community developed. Finally, they experienced persecution and arrest from both religious and secular authorities because the Way they chose affected the economic practices of society and challenged established religious traditions.

Based on these essential concerns of the early church and what is becoming obvious to us now of the emerging world, we can conclude a few ideas about the church in the 21st century:

  1. Our primary mission will be to establish Christian communities in the midst of a hostile and violent world.
  2. The mission of these communities will be to proclaim the rule of God to all people.
  3. Our mission’s dominant theme will be the Way of life prefigured in the life and ministry of Jesus.
  4. The life of prayer will be necessary to keep our Christian communities focused on our mission as witnesses to the Way.
  5. All church and community leadership will be based on faithful service to the Way of Christ.
  6. And finally, I believe that all Christian communities in the 21st century will need to be able to stand on our own… to self-sustain.

Our excellent leadership of Trinity Church believes that, based on the life of the early church, the only way to survive and move forward in our time is for our congregation to turn outward to the world. All our ministries and missions need to shout to the entire world that Jesus is the Way while affirming the sacred worth of others without regard to their religious beliefs, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or nationality. Our mission involves embracing our passion for social justice and the demand Christ makes on us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, assist those alien to our land, forgive sins, and love the enemy. And this is tough stuff to do. We all know it. Yet, it is what we’re called to do and be.

To embrace the possibilities and opportunities of life and move forward as followers of the Way of Christ, all our missions and ministries must be willing to exist for the sole purpose of bringing the hope and joy of this new life to others who are not yet experiencing it. You and I need to invest God’s gifts of time, talents, treasures, and our very lives to turn society upside down so that, from time to time, those who are usually last can be first at the table of the world’s bounty. You and I need to discover, as we move forward into God’s future, the courage needed for embracing and offering this new life in Jesus as the Way. We are fellow pilgrims along the Way that leads us more fully and deeply into the wonder of God’s love, presence in the world, and mission. This is the most healthy and hopeful way to live as Easter people to the world.

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Are You a Reluctant Christian?

Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

by Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

An important part of the pathway to ministry in The United Methodist Church is discerning your call. You are given a mentor to help guide you, assigned papers to write, and continuously encouraged to seek God’s guidance. We take it seriously and believe that each of us in ministry is given a call from God. (Actually, everyone is given a call, but that’s a column for another day!) My call? It’s to reach out to those who feel they are in the margins. They feel marginalized by life, the church, God, or all of the above. Social status, education and financial security offer no guarantees when it comes to this feeling.

That’s why I’d like you to ask yourself if you’re a reluctant Christian. By that I mean, do you feel you want to be a part of this faith journey but, for whatever reason, you find yourself on the outside looking in? Or, do you hold back on fully jumping into this whole church thing, because someone might find out you have doubts about your worthiness as a Christian? No worries. You’ve come to the right place!

Jim, Amy or I are always available to talk with you about your faith walk. We can help reassure you that questioning is a part of growth, and that, yes, sometimes God can feel far away. Even if you are reluctant or unsure, I hope that you will always find your way to Trinity. This Easter season is a perfect time to join or rejoin your church family here.

A Christian Perspective on Birthdays

CRISP-ANDREW-113by Amy Crisp, Minister of Education

April is one of my favorite months – mostly because it’s the month I was born, and I always look forward to celebrating with my friends and family. So as my birthday approaches, I wonder: is there is any religious significance or history to our birthday celebrations?

I was surprised to discover that the Bible mentions birthdays only twice – Genesis 40:20-22 and Matthew 14:6-10. Both of these birthday celebrations were not entirely joyful since both were related to death in some way – the first mentions the death of the chief baker on Pharoah’s birthday, and the second concerns the beheading of John the Baptist during Herod’s birthday celebration. Doesn’t shine a very good light on birthdays, huh?

In ancient Greece and Rome, the birthdays of the gods were celebrated, but not those of men. That is, until some men became powerful political figures and began to see their own birthdays as events that were just as important as the birthdays of the gods they worshiped. But as the Roman Empire declined, so did birthday celebrations.

Humanity entered the Dark Ages, and birth records were no longer kept as precisely as before. As a result, birthday celebrations were few and far between. In fact, the Catholic Church frowned upon birthday parties, tending to agree with Origen who said that Christians should not only refrain from celebrating their birthdays, but should look on them with disgust.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church began keeping better birth records. Around the same time, a custom arose in which children were named after a patron saint on the day of their baptism. Thus, ordinary people began celebrating their saint’s day, while the nobility began celebrating the anniversary of their own births.

Although birthday celebrations have become the norm in our culture, there are still Christian groups (as well as other religious groups) which refrain from celebrating birthdays, believing them to be associated with superstition, paganism, and the like.

Luckily, we Methodists have no qualms about birthdays and can throw together some pretty mean potlucks!

Singing a New Song

RICH-JERRY-9By Jerry Rich, Director of Music

We sing in church for many reasons, but here are four good ones: 1) the Bible repeatedly tells us to do so (e.g., Colossians 3:16); 2) it’s a vivid way to remember important expressions of our faith journeys (Amazing Grace is more easily remembered when sung than when spoken); 3) it stirs our emotions in ways that simple speech cannot; and 4) it’s a foretaste of the eternal praise we shall offer to God in Heaven. Since each generation needs to create or discover its own hymns even as it treasures and preserves the hymns of the past, the United Methodist Church has chosen to bring out a new hymnal called Worship & Song.

Worship & Song’s 190 hymns complement without duplicating our United Methodist Hymnal (1989) and our Faith We Sing (2001). It includes familiar hymns set to new melodies, new texts set to well-known melodies like Danny Boy, Frère Jacques, House of the Rising Sun and Shenandoah, exciting gospel favorites like Down to the River to Pray, popular contemporary Christian praise songs, and meditative songs from the international Christian communities of Iona and Taizé.

Worship & Song reflects the multiple styles in use in today’s United Methodist churches, reaching out to our youth while enabling those who like to sing classic hymns to try new songs of praise. It includes important contemporary composers like Paul Baloche, Keith & Kristin Getty, David Haas, Tim Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Twila Paris, Matt Redman, Penny Rodriguez, Chris Tomlin and Stuart Townend. Recently our Children’s Choir enthusiastically shared Love the Lord (W&S #3116) with the congregation, signing the key words from Christ’s commandment (Mark 12:30) as they sang; the new hymn helped them express their faith.

Worship & Song includes 11 of the top 25 Christian songs listed on the February 2014 poll of United Methodist churches in the USA by CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International): How Great Is Our God (#2), Mighty to Save (#4), Blessed Be Your Name (#6), Amazing Grace [My Chains Are Gone] (#8), In Christ Alone My Hope Is Found (#10), Everlasting God (#11), Here I Am to Worship (#12), Your Grace Is Enough (#14), Open the Eyes of My Heart (#18), Forever (#21), and Holy Is the Lord (#22). That’s a pretty impressive 44%, considering that the hymnal was published in 2011!

Worship & Song assists churchgoers who want to try new texts by setting them to tunes from favorites such as: All Creatures of Our God and King; Be Thou My Vision; Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus; For All the Saints; God, That Madest Earth and Heaven; Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee; Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence; Morning Has Broken; O Sacred Head, Now Wounded; Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; The Gift of Love; and What Child Is This.

In conclusion: if you’d like to experience these new expressions of our faith that will speak powerfully to our youth and touch our hearts as well, please sponsor a copy of Worship & Song. And if you need another reason to do so, here’s a great one: you can dedicate it in honor or in memory of someone who helped you in your own faith journey.

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Church & Society: April 2014

By Kelly Slone

Interested in Volunteering in Our Community?The Church & Society Committee is seeking new volunteers and ideas on how Trinity can serve the community! Please contact Kelly Slone at kslone@nvca.org and find out how you can help make a difference. There are a variety of projects the Committee is actively involved in: tutoring children at Stanton Elementary, making lunch and visiting the homeless at Christ House, and working at SHARE, Martha’s Table, Habitat for Humanity and ChildHelp. Our next meeting is April 29 at 6 p.m. at Trinity.

April Collection Drive
During April, Church and Society will be collecting items for two organizations: Christ House in the District and the Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria. For Christ House, which provides medical and hospice care for the homeless, we’ll be collecting new and gently used casual clothing for men (khakis, sweatpants, sweatshirts, t-shirts). For the Carpenter’s Shelter, we’ll be collecting juice boxes (100% fruit, please), granola bars and coffee. The 80-bed facility provides food and shelter for homeless men, women and children, along with child care and employment assistance. Leave your donations in the collection bins inside the Narthex and the new Fellowship Building.

Thank you! Thank you for the travel-size toiletry items collected during the month of March. Personal hygiene kits will soon be assembled using those items, and given as Mother’s Day gifts to women coming to Martha’s Table.

For more from our Missions Committee and the next mission trip, please see the other blog posts.

Hello from Japan!

ABEL-CHRIS-97By Chris Abel, Youth Director

I’m writing this article from a hostel cafe in Tokyo, and let me tell you, as exciting as that sounds it’s nerve-wracking to go so far outside of my comfort zone alone. It’s in these moments that I realize how hard it is to put yourself into unfamiliar situations just because they might hold the potential to also be wonderful adventures.
The same could be said of a life following Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is asked a question about spirituality, and responds by saying:
“God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 CEB)
This phrase, “born of the Spirit” insinuates that there is a place in our life when our spirit and mind go through the difficult, lonely, and painful journey of being born into a new way of living. But Jesus is saying that once we’re there, we are suddenly open to God’s wind blowing us into adventurous and precious moments and relationships.
It’s a lot like traveling to a new country. Hard, but absolutely worth the effort.
May you choose the harder path! Some day you may wish you did.
Chris

Eagle Scout Projects Benefit Trinity Church

By Jim Bruce, Chairman, Board of Trustees

On behalf of the Trustees of Trinity Church, I thank each of you who have been  or are now Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or scout leaders: Scouting offers much in fellowship, learning, fun, and leadership development. We offer our special compliments to those who are or are working to become Eagle Scouts, a worthy and significant achievement.
Not only is Trinity blessed by having these fine scouts and their families as part of our church family, we have also been richly and specifically blessed by several whose Eagle Scout Project was done to benefit Trinity. The trustees honor and thank you, and are considering additional recognition for you. Tom Endean recently completed his Eagle Scout project, which was paving the plaza above the columbarium. Those of you who have not seen his beautiful work should make a point of doing so, as he has created a serene and beautiful spot for contemplation and solace. We thank Tom as well as his family for their great kindness.
Other Eagle Scouts have also accomplished their Eagle projects for Trinity: In 2012, William Todd repainted the parking and handicap access spaces in our parking lot. We are so grateful for this, and as you park your car next time think of William’s kind gesture.
In about 2007, Eagle Scout Joe Darling built a fence around the parsonage: this is another tangible blessing for not only Trinity but our pastors, increasing their enjoyment of the parsonage and its lawn.
Those of you who are familiar with the Rev. William Watters know that he is recognized as the first American itinerant Methodist circuit rider and veteran of the Revolutionary War, and was very special to the founding of what became our Trinity Church. Trinity Eagle Scout Mark Eastham did work on the Watters gravesite, which is in the Chesterbrook area near St. John’s Catholic Church. We encourage you to visit this site, which has a historic plaque.
Finally, we understand that Orlando Rivera is considering a project at Trinity for his Eagle Scout project.
We apologize if we have left anyone out, and ask that you please let us know so we may recognize and thank you as well.
Trinity’s Trustees thank each of you, past present and future, for the blessings you bestow upon us with your work and being an important part of our Trinity family. We are sincere in wanting to find a way to honor these Eagle Scouts who have done their project at Trinity, and invite your suggestions in finding an appropriate way to do so.