By Kate Cogswell
Thank you to everyone who supported me, prayed for me, and celebrated with me throughout this journey as I completed my Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation from the Apprentice Institute in Wichita, KS, this month!
The two questions people most frequently ask me when they hear about the program have been “What is spiritual formation?” and “What will this certificate do for you?” Valid questions which I can only begin to answer here.
For me, Christian spiritual formation is the invitational journey where we cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that God can form us to be more and more like Christ. It’s the journey from curiosity to Christoformity that Pastor Stacey has been introducing to us. It is acknowledging that I can’t form myself to be more like Christ nor will God force me to become more like Him, but we can be transformed as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit through study, soul-training exercises, and community. (Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 12:1-2, Hebrews 12:1-2)
At the beginning of every Bible study I lead, I share that my hope and prayer is that we won’t end the study simply smarter, but that we would also be changed and able to live differently because of our time with God and each other. This is a path of Christian spiritual formation. A path I am grateful to be on, personally and here at ECC.
As for the second question: The reality is the certificate may or may not ever “do” anything for me; however, the journey towards the certificate has shaped my life and soul in ways that will forever shape my journey forward. Through the books and articles we read, the many reflection questions and soul-training exercises, 4 weeks in Wichita with a community that shared my journey, I have experienced a stretching and growing that allows me to live in the kingdom of God now with an ever-deepening knowing of God and myself and the gospel. I am learning that “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights, and I live in the unshakeable kingdom of God. The kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.” James Bryan Smith shared these narratives in our first week together in Wichita. They increase my ability to navigate life, and even circumstances I wouldn’t choose, with faith, hope, and trust in our God. These statements are true for you too.
Our spiritual formation, our life in Christ is a journey. To borrow Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG): “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
I look forward to allowing the Holy Spirit to continue to form me toward Christoformity and to sharing the journey wherever and however God allows. May we continue to hear God beckoning us onward with a heart open to traveling toward Jesus together!
By Pastor Jorden and Kristin Mueller
This Wednesday, May 22, 2019, we will celebrate the end of another semester of school and another season of Community Gatherings. Community Gatherings is a Wednesday night ministry that began in August of 2017. Each semester that we have offered this ministry we have been adjusting the format, schedule, and content to best serve the needs of our congregation. From the very beginning, we envisioned Community Gatherings being a place where everyone, from our youngest congregants to our oldest, could come together and share in a meal and then share time in formation options across the campus. This semester continued in that same desire. We have been blessed with another wonderful season of meals made each and every week. On the first Wednesdays of the month the Schmfissel Group makes the meal, and on the other Wednesdays of the month, Amber Hatke has been managing and coordinating the meals. We are very grateful for their faithful service and delicious food!
Our children’s groups saw over 30 children throughout the spring semester, from nursery through 4th grade. Children in preschool through 4th grade spent 13 weeks studying the Beatitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We took an in-depth look at Matthew 5:1-12, and covered various concepts like working for peace, comforting those who are sad, and having pure hearts. Each week we spent time studying God’s Word, playing games, sharing snacks, and doing hands-on activities to apply the Biblical concept. We saw many children get to know each other better and grow in friendship throughout the semester!
Our 5th through 8th-grade group saw over 30 youths throughout the spring semester as well. The youth spent time exploring four different studies from the BLESS curriculum produced by the Evangelical Covenant Church to understanding how they are impacted or impacting the world around them. Each week they spent time together playing games, hearing from God's word, and learning more about the role that God has called them to in his kingdom.
This semester we offered a number of options for the adults to choose from. We had conversations on financial peace and the legacy we leave, we discussed the complex realities of race in our world and the role that we can play in that conversation, we spent time exploring God's gift of marriage and how we can strengthen our marriage, and we spent time exploring our Good and Beautiful God and the Sermon on the Mount. This semester we saw around 75 adults engaging in studies across our campus on Wednesday nights.
We are excited for the slower pace of summer...but we can't wait to start up again next Fall. Our first Community Gathering in the fall will be on Wednesday, September 11, 2019! We can't wait to see you there.
By Carol Smith
Over the last few years we have put a display together for our graduating seniors. It is always a joy to look through the pictures and look back on their time with us as a church. Some of them you will remember from their childhood and some you may not even recognize, but they all have a place here at ECC.
Transition is difficult for all ages and generations, and it is especially hard for this age group. Join me in prayers for this transition, as they are no longer a “teen” in youth group but not quite considered an adult. Statistically, we often see this transition as a time many leave the church, but that doesn’t have to be our statistic. One way you could help with this is getting to know our teens BEFORE they leave for college. Invite them into ministry work you are doing. Have coffee or lunch with them or even volunteer in youth ministry areas. But I digress.
This group of 19 seniors are an eager group and ready to tackle what life has ahead of them. We will be celebrating them May 19th at the 10:30am service. I would like to challenge you, church, to find ways to encourage these seniors during their next steps in life.
Seniors are not the only ones transitioning. Confirmation will be celebrated on May 19 in the first service. Many of our teens have patiently gone through two years of The Journey and will be celebrated that Sunday. We are excited to see them tackle questions of the faith and grow in their beliefs through the last two year. It will be a mornings of celebration!