An unofficial theme that Rebecca and I have had for our nearly 8 months of ministry at Bethany is “People live here!” What that means to me is finding ways to reveal to neighbors, renters, and to ourselves the small but dynamic community which is living and growing here. We have a big, beautiful building which can nevertheless serve to hide the liveliness inside. Likewise, there are parts of our building that haven’t been needed in a while and require attention to be attractive and welcoming. We’ve tried to look at things with an outsider’s eyes and ask how we can make the many special things about Bethany more visible.
To this end, with the staff and members of Bethany, we’ve prioritized restoring and beautifying our spaces. We’ve done little things like replacing the deteriorated cork boards outside fellowship hall and big things like cleaning out the entire Rec Room! We’ve still got lots to do, but as we’ve done this work, we’ve made room for new uses of these spaces. We’ve invited renters into rooms we weren’t using, and we’ve started using redone rooms for our own programming. Rebecca has used the analogy of stretching out back into our building. We now use our Sunday School room twice a month, for instance, and this month we’re holding a small group on prayer in the redesigned pastors’ office.
Restarting Sunday School and continuing the offering of adult education here are some of the ways we signal to visitors and neighbors that this is a healthy and worthwhile community. Likewise, our work of outreach and service in the world are vitally important. I am so proud of our congregation for jumping into the work of sponsoring a refugee family with Refugee One while continuing our regular outreach work with The Night Ministry and The Crib. I am especially glad to have had such excellent congregational partners in this work as Ravenswood UCC and Pilgrim Lutheran. Their generosity and steadfastness have been good examples for us.
Rebecca and I have tried to find lots of ways to make Bethany present in the community and invite folks into our life here. At Advent and Lent we used worship themes both to create cohesive and beautiful worship experiences for those already present and to attract new visitors. As part of these themes we brought in accomplished outside storytellers and increased the visibility of Bethany’s already outstanding music; we opened up our worship space to the community with “Ashes on the Go” in before and after school hours; and we got out in the community as a congregation with events like “Beer and Bible.”
I believe that as visitors have come in they’ve experienced worship that is consistently powerful, thought-provoking, and inspirational. I hope you feel the same way. I’m grateful to have welcomed 11 new members to Bethany over these first 8 months, many of whom had already been attracted to this congregation while Pastor Beth was here. I’m grateful for her work here, for Yasuko’s excellent programming and performing of music each week, for Shaun’s work of administration and design, and Jurek’s expert maintenance. I want to say a special thanks to the Church Council and to our moderator, Judy Beaupre for their excellent work on your behalf this year and for their assistance to me as I learn the ropes in this first year.
I have loved working at Bethany this year. I could thank each of you by name for your warm welcome of me and of my family and for your support of my ministry. Thanks for signing up for things, showing up for things, and being willing to try new things. There is great life in this community indeed, and I am excited to be a part of showing that life to our community and continuing to watch Bethany grow!
Pastor Vince Amlin