Anything is possible as long as you don’t care who gets the credit. This is the philosophy of the pastoral team and members of Reedwood Friends Church in Portland, Oregon.
When after seventy-seven years the congregation moved into a new building on a three-acre site in June, 1970, the members decided to become more involved in the community. Prior to the move from cramped quarters, members had spent long hours praying and planning for the day when they would have enough space. They realized that one person cannot minister to 400-plus members without sacrificing some part of the church’s total program. A “team ministry,” it seemed to them was the ideal solution.
The leading of the Lord appeared evident in many ways as they strived to fill the needed positions. There are now ten persons on the pastoral team, with differing areas of competence such as psychology and music. Brainstorming sessions were instigated. Out of these emerged a confidence that something of spiritual worth could be happening in the church building seven days a week.
The church is directly across the street from the soccer field of one of America’s most liberal colleges. As the elders of the church met, they were concerned for the evangelization of those in the immediate neighborhood. One sentence of an elder’s prayer was, in essence, the prayer of all elders present: “Lord, make us shockproof.”
A lone student appeared at the church one Sunday morning. With bushy hair and faded blue jeans, he presented a sharp contrast to others in the sanctuary. This was the congregation’s first exercise in becoming “shock-proof.”
Members of the pastoral team as well as those in the congregation introduced themselves to the student and learned that he was a Christian on the Reed College campus. He appeared the following Sunday and told a Sunday-school class about the small nucleus of Christians at the college. Some cringed a little as he seated himself on the back of a pew, his moccasined feet on the lush new upholstery. But as they resisted the temptation to “bolt and run,” they discovered that beneath the thin veneer of a different life style lay a keen desire to unite with other Christians.
The following Sunday, more Christians from the college appeared in the sanctuary with their far-out clothing and hair styles. Instead of the aloofness they had previously experienced in formal church services, they found a genuine welcome awaiting them at the worship service and at the fellowship hour that followed.
An innovative idea was born when a member of the church’s pastoral team discovered that the college served no evening meal on Sunday. Some women of the church instigated a carry-in supper an hour before the evening worship service. This gave an added chance for fellowship between the students and church members. One astonished Reed student exclaimed “You people are human after all!”
More brainstorming sessions on the part of the members produced the idea for a nursery school where parents could leave their children each day of the work week. Within a short time, the “Little Friends Day Care School” was filled to its capacity of seventy-five preschoolers.
“Since our little girl has been coming here, we can’t begin a meal without saying grace first,” one mother reported. Another parent remarked, “You should hear the Scripture our toddler rattles off!”
At the other end of the age spectrum is the Young at Heart Club. A concerned member at Reedwood felt a need for closing the generation gap, and initiated the YAH Club for senior citizens. The program is enough to make even a “junior citizen” huff and puff to keep pace.
Some members of the pastoral team became concerned for those who were confined to homes for the aged. Periodic nursing-home workshops have been held with gratifying results. With the increased amount of help that the workshops beget, the Reedwood members involved in this ministry are now able to project their services into twelve nursing homes in the metropolitan area. They conduct ten church services each month. Junior-high girls have been recruited to help nurses in the homes with menial tasks. Sometimes the best investment of their time is just a visit with a lonely resident.
The largest group to come to the church building during the week is the city-wide Women’s Bible Study Fellowship. On Wednesday mornings 450 women gather to study God’s Word.
The Sunday-evening service is structured for a dual purpose. The first half is a regular meeting for worship. The second half is a sharing time called “The Encouraging Fellowship.” Several worshipers tell of needs, their own or those of others. Other compassionate worshipers lift sentence prayers for these expressed needs. The following Sunday evening, reports of victory are shared.
In an intercessory prayer group that meets during the Sunday-school hour, a dozen or so members meet to pray for the nitty-gritty problems of everyday living. “Intercessory prayer is the hardest chore of the Christian,” one participant in the group admitted. “It is the most discouraging aspect of the prayer life. Yet it reaps the greatest rewards over the long haul.”
When a stranger comes to Reedwood Friends, he must make a concerted effort to remain anonymous. A rotating team of greeters has a warm welcome for all who attend. The visitor discovers two attributes when he attends a meeting for worship at Reedwood: love and prayer in bountiful measure.
Members of the pastoral team meet together weekly for planning, inspiration, and fellowship. During this time, they seek God’s direction toward fresh ways of spiritually strengthening the congregation and new avenues of service.
In various stages of development at Reedwood are a kind of day-care center for the elderly, a place where working adults can bring an aging parent during the week for companionship with a peer group; use of the building for worship on Saturday evenings by Spanish-speaking Christians; a baby clinic one day a month for welfare mothers; and office space in the church building for a Christian organization active on college campuses.
In view of the large number of youthful apartment-dwellers in the vicinity, a “late risers” worship service has been scheduled for 12:30, preceded by a continental breakfast at noon.
Reedwood Friends is also involved with its sister churches in cooperative ministries of half-way houses, drop-in centers, a counseling service, coffeehouses, and other projects to make a Christian presence felt in the community.—MELVIN KENWORTHY, elder, Reedwood Friends Church, Portland, Oregon.
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