Matt's Message

First Week of October
Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one! – Psalm 133:1
Team, there are few moments that stand out more clearly of our church truly living into the call to be one, than the first week of October 2022. This idea was shaped by much planning with help from all the pastors and staff. The question we asked was simply, “How can we make Koinonia (our sermon series) come to life?” We thought we dreamed, we debated, and we landed on three services that would embody clearly what it means to be one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.

World Communion Sunday is not something we came up with but rather a liturgical day that has been celebrated for quite some time. It is a reminder that each of us comes to the table of our Lord which has already been prepared. The bread is broken; the wine is poured. We simply come with nothing but our brokenness and are made whole by Christ’s love. At this moment, we remember that the same love that has been extended to all of us here in Shalimar has always been extended to everyone across the globe. All are in need of love, justification, hope, and assurance, and in Christ that is where everyone, and yes everyone, finds it. We were made one in Christ.
Nights of Worship likewise are not new. In fact, we did one of our own about a year ago. The difference this time was that we wanted to truly bring people together. Our church has a vast array of wonderful people, which is a great thing! We have 4 very distinctive services. We have children all the way to adults. We have first-time visitors, and we have lifelong members. So, our challenge, if you will, was how to bring together such a diverse team. The answer: food. Everyone loves food. The more I researched and read I discovered that there were actually “Dinner Churches” that started through sharing meals. There is an entire movement of sorts that has dinner church liturgies and prayers, supper club workbooks and prompts, and even books outlining the scriptural references to food, and particularly meals, being acts of worship. This was all we needed to get started. From there the community came together. Duchess and Magnolia Grill stepped up, volunteers came out of nowhere, the staff and clergy made things happen, and then you all showed up and showed out. Team, we had 22 tables of 8, more than we planned for. We had people come for the first time. 8:00 folks and 11:07 folks at the same table. Singing hymns beautifully as angles and singing modern worship tunes in ways I have never heard. Sharing meals with one another and breaking down walls. This is true worship. God ordained it, Jesus displayed it, the early church modeled it, and we participated in it. Sunday night we made one with each other.
Finally, we asked how can we tangibly show that we are in ministry to all the world. We all believe this, but we can’t really fly everyone over to Cuba and back. Rise Against Hunger quickly came to mind. These wonderful people have been hosting meal packaging events for years. I did my first one with them in 2013. They bring everything you need from the supplies to the bags to the hair nets to the music. They have it down! I planned on having 90 folks working hard for 2 hours. We ended up with 145 people packaging 20,088 meals in 1.5hrs. It was incredible. Children running back and forth having a blast and being so helpful. The adults at the weight stations making it happen. Some military folks came over and helped us with the setup and cleanup. It was a glimpse of the kingdom of God. People working together from all ages and stages of life, centered around one mission, to feed those around the world we will never meet. You think about this bag of rice that we made. It will become a meal for a family. A meal to nourish their bodies and sustain their soul with the shared time together with those around them. Together we were truly one in ministry to all the world.
There you have it! I think what happened that first week of October is what God wants every week. People together united with one purpose. No one came with a cause or debate to win. People came with hearts ready to taste and see the Lord is good, worship the almighty by breaking bread, and serve with one another to be in ministry to the world. The focus was not on those things that can divide, but rather on the things that unite or more clearly on the thing that unites, Jesus. His love for all is what makes us one! I pray we have many more moments like the ones above, and I even make a motion that we do these events every year so that the first week of October becomes Koinonia week for perpetuity at Shalimar UMC. Can I get an Amen?  
Complete in Him,
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Abigail Denney

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