Mission: Possible Month Continues…

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Last week Bob kicked off our Mission:Possible series sharing how we do missions locally, regionally, and globally at St. Paul???s.????

This Sunday Beth Stafford from MAAC Charities will share with our community more about their mission.????

The following Sunday, Rev. Joey Pensak from RUF (Reformed University Fellowship @ UConn) will share with our community more about their mission.

About MAAC:??http://www.macc-ct.org/

Manchester Area Conference of Churches, Inc. provides food, clothing, shelter and advocacy for the unmet basic needs of people in our community.???? Established on January 19, 1973 by fourteen area churches, MACC has grown to be the Town of Manchester's primary social services agency. MACC serves resident of the towns of Manchester and Bolton and is the largest private, nonprofit social services agency in the state located East of the Connecticut River. Currently, the conference consists of 32 area churches.?? MACC employs a dedicated staff of professionals and relies on 75-100 volunteers each week fulfill its mission. Every day, 365 days a year MACC provides needed social services to the community.

St. Paul???s is one of the 32 area churches, which partners with MAAC.?? We became a partnering church with MAAC in November 2007, a partnership which continues to this day.?? At our March membership meeting we voted to donate two thousand dollars to support MAAC.?? Beth Stafford, Executive Director of MAAC, will be sharing more about this essential mission with our community this Sunday.

About R.U.F.:??http://www.uconnruf.com/

R.U.F. is a Christian fellowship for the convinced and the unconvinced. Our group is unique in that we are known on campus as a place where skeptics and believers alike are welcomed and challenged to think. We refuse to dodge or minimize tough questions and we long to be a place where Jesus becomes more beautiful and believable to you. Our desire is for both the believer and the skeptic to say of our community, "Where have I ever been loved like this?"

While St. Paul???s has yet to partner with R.U.F, we are looking to explore possibilities of working together in the future.?? R.U.F. is a student ministry committed to involving students in local churches and may fit well with our desire to better serve our student population.?? Joey, an ordained minister in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) will be sharing more about this important mission with our community the following Sunday.

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Serving Out of Brokenness, Burdens, and Passions

I appreciated Vince's openness this past week in the sermon, calling us to serve where we like. And if it doesn't work out, we can find somewhere else to serve. I think there is a lot of wisdom in only pursuing the ministries where there are people willing and able to make them happen.

I'd like to add a few thoughts to where and why we serve. I have found that God often calls us to serve out of our own brokenness and the healing that he has brought to us. In addition, God also prompts us to serve in places where we have a particular burden or passion.

For example, best-selling author Donald Miller started a mentoring project for children without fathers, focusing especially on children whose father's are incarcerated. This is no mistake. Miller grew up without a father, and he ministers out of the brokenness and healing that he has experienced first hand.

While there are many ways that the Spirit may lead us to serve, perhaps we could begin by asking where we have been broken in past and then experienced the healing of God. Perhaps the healing he has brought to us is something we can share with others who are walking similar paths.

If not that, then perhaps we can identify one or two things that are truly important to each one of us. Is there a way we can make this passion available to God, the congregation, and our broader communities? If you don't know how your gifts or passions may fit into a ministry, you could ask a friend in your small group (you do belong to one, right?) for help sorting it out.


Women’s Breathe Retreat, 4/30-5/1

Women’s Breathe Retreat

What happens when you combine twenty women, a beautiful island off the coast of Mystic, amazing food, and two days to simply be with each other and with God? You get some sunburns, some tears, lots of hugs, and a much-needed reminder that you are deeply loved by God and by your community. At least that was my experience at our recent Breathe Retreat at Ender???s Island, where women from St. Paul???s and our larger faith community came together from April 30th-May 1st??to focus on the important issues of forgiveness and healing.

As St. Paul???s moves forward in our goal of healing as a community both in our relationships with God and in our relationships with each other, the Breathe Retreat served as an important step in that direction. Our focus on the retreat was to identify areas of hurt or loss in our lives and to seek God???s help in the process of forgiveness and healing. Through time with God, time with each other, teaching on forgiveness, musical worship, and creative art time, we tried to discern our next steps for forgiving God, ourselves, and the people around us. Though I can???t speak for everyone, I know I came home with a renewed commitment to work towards reconciliation in several relationships, not necessarily to restore the relationship but for the sake of my own emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

After an unexpectedly delicious steak dinner on Friday night, we all wandered off on our own to explore the nooks and crags of the island and spend some alone time with God. There is something about sitting on?? a rocky shore and staring out across an expanse of seemingly endless ocean that is a powerful reminder of the sovereignty and strength of God. Realizing how literally tiny I am compared to the vastness of creation, I find my perspective is restored and situations that once felt like insurmountable obstacles shrink to pebbles in the path of His larger plans and purposes. We ended the night with musical worship in the island???s small chapel, which was built to ???represent??the gospel in stone and glass???, and I went to bed with the sound of twenty voices refraining again and again ???everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss.???

Though we were all slightly sleep-deprived from late night worship and early morning runs, we managed to pack a lot of emotional, relational, and spiritual work into the following day???starting with a teaching from Jen Hill on the importance of confession and forgiveness. Jen???s life experiences and years of serving as a healing prayer minister have given her first-hand knowledge about the dangers of allowing hurts to fester and harden into sin and she challenged all of us to identify people in our lives that we hadn???t forgiven or wouldn???t forgive. We spent some time individually reflecting on areas of unforgiveness in our lives and the morning session closed as we broke up into smaller groups to pray for each other.

After lunch, Susan Lally, a licensed professional counselor from Ridgefield, CT, talked to us about how our God is the God of Genesis and thus a creator. Since we are made in His image, we are also meant to be creators, though people???s busy lives leave them little time for creating anything but stress. Giving us a sketchbook, a journal, and a table full of art supplies, she invited us to create something???paintings, poetry, music???and allow God to speak to us as we created.?? The first hour was spent creating art on the topic of ???loss,??? and it was amazing what God revealed to each person about areas of loss that weren???t always even in the forefront of their minds. A frequent comment as we shared our art in our small groups was ???I had no idea what this piece was going to be about when I started, but as I worked on it I realized it was about the loss of???..???. After creating art on the topic of loss, we spent another hour creating art on the topic of ???gain??? and once more it was powerful to reflect on the ways God blesses us even when we aren???t fully aware of it.

I usually dread retreats because time tends to drag as I wait awkwardly or impatiently for one activity/talk to be over and the next one to start,?? yet in this instance I wish we had had a few more hours to be with each other and God. We closed the retreat by standing hand-in-hand on the shore and singing the benediction together, but even after that no one seemed quite ready to leave. We lingered over hugs and ???thank you???s and I was overwhelmed by the amazing women in our community and the amazing work God is doing in each one of them. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in this weekend, whether by coming to the island, making welcome bags, or praying for us. It was an important time of personal and corporate healing and an experience I won???t soon forget.

Post by: Emily Dolan

For more pictures, visit: http://www.flickr.com/stpaulswired

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Embracing What is Beyond Our Understanding

This morning I wrote up a post for my blog about connecting our bodies with worship. While I have heard and read what some Christians have to say about about the positions of our bodies during worship, I'm particularly interested in the impact food and exercise have on our worship.

While that may sound a bit far-fetched, such a connection between food/exercise and worship makes sense in light of Paul's statement that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit lives within us, then anything we do to our bodies should impact that relationship.

My theory is that we rarely speak of such things because the mechanics are a mystery. Can we definitively say how a healthy meal or daily exercise impact our worship of God? While we can certainly find some anecdotal evidence for the benefits of say, a walk that frees us to meet with God, the overall impact or things such as food and exercise is difficult to quantify.

All I can say, is that in some mysterious way, I know that food and exercise are a part of my preparation for worship. I'm a different person without exercise and a healthy meal, and missing these things has relational ramifications. Working in a garden or taking a walk is not necessarily worship simply because we are doing such things, but they are a part of the process. It is the process that remains a mystery to me. How does it all work?

There was a time in my life when I would have written something off because it remained beyond my understanding. However, we?? serve a God who exists beyond our understanding to a certain degree. Can I accept a process that is both mysterious and still beneficial? Can I humbly receive from God, even if I don't understand how he accomplishes such things?

Ed Cyzewski blogs at www.inamirrordimly.com.