I’m making all things new…
In my living room, I have an old rocking chair that once belonged to my grandparents. I have many memories of running into my grandparents living room and seeing my grandfather asleep in that chair with one of his books laying against his chest. I never thought much of it at the time, but years have shifted my perspective. Now I look at that same chair in my own living room and watch my children rock back and forth in a much wilder fashion than the chair was probably accustomed to in my grandparents’ house. It’s amazing how things can change over time while at the same time remaining as they once were. Our perspectives shift, and something old can become something new.
You Belong is a new church plant of the Moravian Church, Northern Province. We are a growing group of individuals who are exploring how we might renew our way of being church for the sake of stepping into a version that is grounded more deeply in inclusion and accessibility. Our ministries focus on service to and with families and people of all abilities.
In many ways, starting a new Moravian church is all about taking something old and making it new. On January 6, our growing group gathered for what we call our “Better Together” gatherings. These are fellowship gatherings that focus intently on bringing people of all abilities together to be in community and share the love and grace of Jesus. At this particular gathering, we took part in an old Moravian tradition of drawing our yearly watchwords.
For some of us, reading a small verse of scripture out loud or in our head might be very meaningful; however, for others, it might just be words on a piece of paper. In an effort to help make these verses more accessible, our You Belong team sat down to think of ways to make these words on a page come alive. At one of our recent Better Together gatherings, we recognized that painting and coloring was a wonderful way to be inclusive and our creative lightbulbs turned on.
As our group gathered, we passed around a small basket and invited everyone to pull out a scripture verse. Together we shared the passages that were drawn. Then, we took time to listen to one another as each of us considered what the passage was saying to us. To take it one step further, we next helped each other think about how we might depict that divine presence in a painting.
As the night came to a close, everyone left the table with a canvas that captured their own version of their 2022 watchword. It was a beautiful moment for me as a Moravian pastor, taking something old and breathing new life into it. It’s like me watching my children rock rigorously in the same chair my Grandpa used to quietly read and sleep in.
Everything we do at You Belong begins with the question, “How can we best do that?” This does two things: first, it helps us understand that even if we have experienced something one way for much of our lives, perhaps it is not (or no longer is) the best way; and second, this question reminds us that we should have more questions than answers. In other words, if we want to create something that is meaningful to people beyond our current gathering space, we need to go beyond our gathering space and ask questions.
We are working hard to think of church as function (what is the desired outcome) rather than form (what we have seen and experienced). We are taking what we’ve always known, pulling out the best of it, and then creating a new tapestry with both used and new woven together.
That is the beauty of planting a new Moravian church; our story is filled with many beautiful and strong threads. We also understand that we are called to come to the table and prayerfully ask, “How is God asking us to weave life through love and grace in 2022?”
Our calling at You Belong is to show how we can bring people of all abilities together in a new witness of walking in faith.
We are enthusiastic as we step forward in 2022 with new excitement on our horizon. We are preparing to start a new accessible and inclusive way of worship. We are bringing people of all abilities together through our universally accessible gardening program. We are helping others experience a deep sense of community through music, athletics, caring for our community and serving families in the greater Green Bay area.
If you feel called to support our work at You Belong or wish to learn more about You Belong, visit us at www.youbelongwi.org.
Thank you for supporting this new ministry. Keep us in your prayers.
The Rev. Gregory M Behrend is pastor for You Belong in Green Bay, Wisconsin. You Belong is also available on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.