One of the things JoAnne and I will miss from Community Wesleyan is the themed fellowship dinners. Over the years we have attended many of them from Valentine Dinners with intimate settings for two to grand senior buffets with all kinds of themes. Last Saturdays’ Italian night was a bunch of fun, not just in my opinion, but from the reports of many who have commented on it to my wife and me both privately and publicly.
Bible Trivia contests were fascinating
The occasion was the long delayed wrap-up of the Big Bible Bonanza emphasis we had in the late fall. The two teams – the Goldfish under the leadership of Rhett LaForte and the Blue Angels rallying behind Mark Boswell — battled for points that could only be earned by consistent daily Bible reading. Bonuses went to those who did not miss a day and to teams with more than sixty percent not missing a day. After many weeks, the Goldfish prevailed. So the Blue Angels had to prepare the dinner, while the Goldfish picked the menu. To keep with the Bible knowledge goal, at the dinner, we played Bible trivia in three ways. Two games were written quizzes. One was a paragraph containing hidden names of Bible books. Several people found all sixteen. The second was a matching test. Again, a few whizzes aced it. The final trivia contest was a live rematch between the two teams. Pastor Kelvin emceed the game and the Blue Angels won by just one question.
Thanks to the organizers and artists
Thanks go to JoAnne Jones who thought up the Big Bible Bonanza emphasis to encourage daily Bible reading and who also planned the Italian feast. Thanks also to Lea Harrington and Keely Stater who lent art work and to Lea for decorating so beautifully. The artwork was so elegantly set as you can see in the pictures. Thank you to all who cooked and all who helped make this fine event happen.
During our 50th celebration we received many compliments as a church family. Some were for relatively unimportant things. Others for very significant factors. The highest compliment we received, I believe, was from one person who does not often speak publicly. She rose in testimony time and said that she liked our church and was attracted to it because we not only taught the Bible and preached about it but we lived it too. That has to be one of the key characteristics of every good church. Jesus said it was the description of every wise follower of his. Here’s a great article on how to choose a good church. I think the four ideals this author unpacks describe Community Wesleyan in Kirkville too.
I continue to reflect on what made our 50th anniversary celebration so successful. Our district superintendent gave us a great compliment saying that he could not think of another church that had used an anniversary celebration so well to move the church forward. So I want to write down for the sake of others what I believe helped us to make it happen.
Intercede for the celebration
Looking back, I believe that one reason our celebration was blessed was that we have been praying for it for all these 30 months that it has been in process. It has been a frequent topic on the Wednesday intercessors list. It has been a subject for prayer by the pastors in their weekly meetings. It had been a topic for LBA (Local Board of Administration) prayer times too. Our focus has been that we might lift up Jesus in this celebration, that we might celebrate his faithfulness and grow in faith and expectancy for the future. Our prayer was that the 50th celebration would help to launch the church into its next decade well.
After our fun celebration, I began thinking, “Why is it important to celebrate? Are there good reasons besides the fun?” I remembered immediately that God must have thought it was important as he taught the OT people to set aside time for feasting and rejoicing. Now, in the glow of our big weekend, I can see some of the reasons.
Celebration motivates people to volunteer and identify with the cause.
The energy of the occasion is catching. People like to be a part of a good purpose in a way that is immediate and tangible. Helping out at a celebration provides a positive emotional feedback to the volunteer, especially when coupled with appropriate appreciation from those being helped. Volunteering in turn helps the volunteer to feel more a part of the organization that they helped.
Celebration generates creativity.
We found that the combination of workers thinking together and the challenge of a focused task that they strongly believed in generated much creativity. All kinds of new ideas were spawned in the past few months and many of them were used. One of the biggest examples was the sanctuary makeover. The idea of preparing for the future helped set a climate for change. The creative idea of dividing the front wall between paint and paneling instead of all paneling was accepted by a huge majority. The new design’s decorative flexibility became evident at the 50th as the background of the cross became purple to complement the purple and gold color scheme of the celebration. Enlarging the vestibule and moving the doors to the center created an entrance so natural that it seems like it always should have been like that. For another example, we had done slide shows before on the big screen but never with the music embedded and narration overlaid. Anne Kipping and JoAnne Jones went as far as they could and then called in Josh Basile to put it all together. A third example was the spontaneous recreation of the church sign landscaping by Cindy Centner and Vicki Hilliges. All these examples made it obvious that creativity just happens as we celebrate.
What a great weekend we have enjoyed here at Community Wesleyan. There was a tremendous joy evident in all the events. Beginning with the hugs of surprise reunions at the parsonage open house, continuing amid the happy chatter of the delightfully fancy Meet N’ Greet reception, and throughout the service of thanksgiving on Saturday evening, joy abounded. Looking back, I’m so glad we added the Saturday events. I estimate at least 120 enjoyed the praise and thanksgiving time. It gave much more time to peruse the meticulously collected photo albums and bulletin boards telling our church’s story. It also gave time to try to guess who went with which baby pictures. I wonder if anyone guessed that early grade school picture was me. I also think it added greatly to the anticipation of Sunday.
Sunday’s Celebration events were climactic in every way. The coffee and cookie time was grander than ever and enjoyed by many. In service, who can forget the heart for winning others to Jesus of our aging founding pastor, Rev. Tom Boghosian as he urged us on. The music was stirring especially the rousing chorus of “Look What the Lord Has Done,” the grand piano, organ and reunion choir rendition of “To God Be the Glory,” the Sign Choir’s moving “Yesterday, Today, Forever,” the bell choir’s fresh reminder, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”, and Dave Schwarz’s challenge with “Find Us Faithful.” Like our two services, the celebration was a mix of traditional and contemporary elements. At the suggestion of Dick Rugar, we used this day to also receive new members, of whom he was one. Another one, Nancy Collins, gave her testimony. A very well put together slide show summarized our church’s history and ministry very well. District Superintendent Wayne Wager Sr.’s message on Jubilee, a Time to Realign was both a warning and an encouragement to us to take advantage of this crucial time in our history to seek the kind of renewal that will return us to our original passion for souls.
What a blessing also to hear Pastor Eric’s official announcement that our goal of 50 ministries in the past 30 months had been exceeded. We praise God for enabling this. And since we want that spirit to continue, we hope many will send out one of the special postcards we made. That is our next outreach and service ministry.
In hindsight, one of the wisest decisions we made was to use a caterer and have the dinner at church. The turnout was tremendous. The downstairs was arranged to seat about 220 and some seats were used twice. The program was fun yet helped us reflect on the history of our church. The reminisces from former pastors Wolfe and Crandall and testimonies from Fran Filmer and Steven Sgroi gave us good perspectives too. JoAnne’s song, “Keep the Flame Burning” that we sang at the close of both the service and the dinner program seemed to sum it all up so well.
There are so many to thank for making it all possible. Pastor Wager was impressed with the planning we had done. I was personally blessed by all those who pitched in the last few days to put on finishing touches. There were set-up volunteers swarming the place for days ahead. Volunteers worked on at least 4 picture related projects constantly during that last week. Gardeners totally redid the church sign garden. People were practicing music and sign and bells whenever they could find a spot to do so. Then after it was all over, volunteers were cleaning up for hours. I say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped bring it all together.
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It is hard to believe that the time has arrived for Community Wesleyan Church’s 50th Anniversary Celebration to begin. It seems we have been thinking about it for a long time since we started planning and working toward this time about 30 months ago. We have accomplished much leading up to it too. We have worked hard together to complete 50 outreach and service ministries. During the celebration we will hear the report of our progress in reaching this goal. We have also worked shoulder to shoulder and sacrificed financially to achieve the 50th Anniversary Makeover goals that we set to help prepare our church for the future. Our plan was to make a generational difference by preparing our facility for God to use over the next two decades, if Jesus tarries. The results of the first two stages – the kitchen makeover and the sanctuary makeover – will be on display. In addition, folks can see the JAM’N Kids area and the new relaxed-look library both of which also caught the makeover fever. We are praising God that all of these projects have been completely paid for. The third stage – replacing the sanctuary floodlights with modern fixtures – is nearly funded as of the last LBA meeting. With much of the work behind us, now it is time to focus on the celebration. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for that, spiritually, relationally, and emotionally. The events of the next three weeks are about celebrating God’s faithfulness over the past 50 years and looking forward in faith to the future. Here’s a complete chart of what’s happening.
This year Community Wesleyan Church is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. With God’s help, we have worked hard to use this event, not just to celebrate the past or have a party, though we will do those too, but also to launch our church forward into its next decade with momentum and clarity of vision. Our aim is not only to celebrate God’s faithfulness in the past, but also to look forward with faith to his future acts through and on behalf of his people.
Since we have been complimented on how well this celebration is going so far, I thought I would write a couple articles about how it has happened. What have we done right that helped it happen?
Set a precedent at lesser anniversaries
As I reflect, the first ingredient of the success of this celebration plan has actually been the precedent that we set in previous anniversaries. No one argued, as sometimes happen, about whether we should celebrate; it was a given. The only question was how. We had in varied ways marked every five year anniversary since I arrived as pastor 21 years ago. In fact, as I look back, the variety in itself was a helpful part of the precedent we had set. Many of the activities for the celebration had been tested before. For example, for the 45th anniversary, we had decided to send a short term missions team to Romania. It was a big goal for us. But it was a success and so it was natural to decide a few years later to include sending another missions team as one of the ministries that would mark the 50th. As a part of the 40th we had a great feast. That idea will be part of this celebration as well, though it will be carried out a little differently. If we had not set a precedent by celebrating lesser anniversaries, I do not think we would have been ready to create the excitement and energy that have gathered around this celebration.
When I was a young pastor, I didn’t understand the importance of celebration. I guess I must have ignored the fact that the OT has a regular schedule of feasts for the Israelites to be involved in. Maybe it came from the the everyday nature of dairy farming where I grew up. Maybe it was because celebration in our culture often has an unhealthy and unnecessary association with drinking alcohol. But over the years, I have discovered the importance of the Bible’s example of taking time to celebrate in wholesome ways.
So, for example, this last weekend at Community Wesleyan, we took time to celebrate. It was the Celebration Sunday of our 50th Anniversary Makeover Campaign. So we took time out to celebrate. We put up the tents outside, had chicken barbeque and brought in the watermelon and ice cream. It was a great picnic and it lent a air of festivity to our event that it would not otherwise have had. Everyone enjoyed themselves.