When Bowling Alleys Close

Route 19 Bowl & Lounge here in Washington closed its doors for good yesterday. Within a month, demolition of the building will begin. With this change comes the end of my Thursday night bowling league, as the 17 teams are scattering to three different area bowling alleys for next season.

I’m not very good at bowling, but I enjoy being in leagues for a variety of reasons. One reason is the chance to meet and socialize with people I otherwise would probably never meet. In particular, bowling is one of the few social activities in our culture that draws an inter-generational crowd. Our now defunct league was made up of adults of every age, and we all got along like one big family with several generations.

I am a big proponent of inter-generational friendships, and the church is another place where these relationships can blossom. But sometimes, we stifle this by creating all our ministry groups and worship opportunities around ages, genders, or life stages. The resulting church “community” becomes little more than a collection of segregated groups. While age-appropriate and gender-appropriate ministries are essential, there is also a need to bridge the generational gaps, so young and old can listen and learn from each other.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, he charged the older women of the church to “encourage the young women,” (2:3), and the older men of the church to “urge the younger men to be self-controlled” and to “Show yourself in all respects a model of good works.” (2:6-7). Paul also wrote to a young leader, Timothy, encouraging him to “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

Paul’s message is clear: no matter what age, we have something to teach and something to learn from people of different ages than us. And a healthy church is one that fosters multi-generational relationships in its ministry. I am glad that Avery seems to do well with this. We encourage inclusion of children in worship. We consider our older members when planning ministry or renovating the building. And my heart is strangely warmed every Sunday that I walk into the fellowship hall after worship and see young adults talking and laughing with people old enough to be their parents or grandparents. Sometimes those interactions even create conversation about ways of living or current social issues, where generational lines are recognized yet are not a barrier to fruitful dialogue.

With the closing of yet another bowling alley, I’m reminded that the church’s role in cultivating inter-generational relationships is more important now than ever before. So whether you are young or old, or somewhere in the middle, be intentional about developing relationships with people of different ages. Such relationships are a blessing to all who engage in them, and they also help us more fully become the body of Christ envisioned by scripture.

— Pastor Erik

Community & Accountability

“Alright, where did you go? We haven’t seen you yet this season.”

The text message came in Saturday evening, around the second inning. It was from the people who have season tickets behind Lisa and me for Pirates games. ThoughSaturday was the third game of the year in our ticket package, we had yet to sit in our seats. Our absence for 3 straight games was unusual, and now people were starting to notice.

I’ll admit, it made me feel good to know someone had noticed our absence. These are people who I have never hung out with outside of the ballpark, yet they still miss seeing us. I told them that yes, we still have our seats, but we’ve been busy lately and couldn’t make the games. Other things – a speaking engagement, a meeting, and time with family – had taken priority over attending ballgames. Now, I’m eager to see our “ballpark friends” for the first time next weekend.

One benefit of church life is the community and accountability we share. By regularly participating in worship, study, and fellowship, we build relationships with those who share our interest in the Christian faith – people who we otherwise would not have known. And the closer our relationships, the more noticeable it is when someone is missing. Our church relationships can help us stay accountable to habitual practices of worship attendance, praying, and living as Jesus wants us to.

I’m thankful for my ballpark friends. They consider me a part of our section’s community, and they are holding Lisa and I accountable to doing something that brings us joy and quality time as a couple. I’m also  thankful for the community and accountability we share at Avery UMC. So the next time you see your “pew mates” missing from worship, check in on them to make sure everything is okay, and let them know you missed seeing them!

— Pastor Erik

What’s Anointing All About?

Twice last week, I anointed members of Avery UMC: one in worship, and another in an assisted living facility. While anointing is a common practice in many traditions, and considered a sacrament in some, the United Methodist Church is not often known for regular observation of the practice.

But scripture gives us several examples of anointing in a variety of situations. We may anoint someone who is sick (James 5:14), someone who is nearing death (John 12:1-7), or to signify that someone has been chosen by God to lead (Exodus 29:1-8).

No matter what the occasion, the purpose of anointing is the same: to signify that God’s blessing rests on the anointed person. It can be a powerful way to experience God’s presence in our lives. In all three circumstances which we commonly anoint people, the uncertainty of the future may lead to anxiety, worry, or fear. Anointing reminds us that God allays our fears and calms our anxiety with the holy presence that rests on us.

As a pastor, I am always willing to anoint someone for any of the above reasons, or if you desire to feel God’s presence more deeply in your life. Anointing can be done in worship, at home, in the hospital prior to surgery, or anywhere.

— Pastor Erik