Building Good Boundaries

Last week I had the opportunity to spend the day learning about maintaining good personal boundaries. This is a seminar that Disciples of Christ pastors in Mid-America are required to take every three years. However, it is more than just a requirement, it is a great opportunity to think about our boundaries and how they affect our relationships in the church, and in life. So, what are boundaries? I’m glad you asked!

I define boundaries are the “rules” we put in place in our lives to empower ourselves and others to live abundantly. In many ways boundaries are like the Ten Commandments. The are the governing principles in all of our relationships. For example, one of my boundaries is that I never lend money that I wouldn’t want to give away. In college I made a small loan to a friend. The total amount escapes me now, but it was less than $100. Whatever the amount, this friend never repaid the money and our relationship was soured for quite a while. Eventually I was able to grow to the point where I could forgive him and the debt he owed. Our relationship, however, never recovered.

One thing which is important for us to keep at the forefront of our minds is the relationship between boundaries and power. Many people I have met through the years see themselves as powerless to make changes in their lives, to control the choices they make. I believe we are all more powerful than we imagine. Furthermore, I believe wholeheartedly that there are areas in our lives where we are more powerful than others. Like in the lending example, I had more power because I had more money at the time. There are many things which give us power; age, profession, race, and gender, all contribute to our power. That list is FAR from exhaustive, but you get the idea.

I like to think of how power relates to the responsibility of setting and maintaining boundaries by thinking of boating. For this example there are two kinds of boats, power boats and sailboats (which would also include canoes, kayaks, any boat without an engine..). The powerboat is able to control its speed and direction more efficiently than a canoe. Therefore it is the powerboat’s responsibility to avoid the non-powered boats it encounters. The person in the canoe may not have sufficient strength, or power, to get out of the way of the faster, more agile powerboat.

The same thing is true in our relationships; it is the responsibility for the person with more power to maintain clear boundaries. That responsibility doesn’t fall on the person, or people, with less power. This is one of the primary reasons why the Mid-America Region places such an emphasis on training our clergy in setting good boundaries. You, the congregations we serve, grant us a substantial amount of power. And you probably don’t have to think too long to remember a situation where a minister abused that power.

This is only a glimpse into the important topic of boundaries in the church. I hope to develop a brief workshop, or study session, to help guide us through this important topic. Once I have that event planned, I’ll be offering you (and others in our wider community) the opportunity to sign up and spend a few hours learning about boundaries. I look forward to thinking with you about how we strengthen our relationships through effective boundaries.

Learning and Living Lent

It is hard to believe that Lent is approaching so quickly. As I am writing we are only one week away from Ash Wednesday. As busy as Lent can be in the life of the church, it is a great opportunity to experience and draw closer to the Living God we know through Jesus the Christ. I hope you will take advantage of the many opportunities for worship and reflection during this special season in the church year. Below you will find a list of the special activities planned for Lent this year.

Ash Wednesday – March 1st, 7:00pm – Ash Wednesday is a quiet, reflective service that allows us to confront our brokenness and encounter God’s grace and mercy. It is a moving time of worship with the chance to begin clearing space in our lives to encounter God in a new, fresh way in the coming weeks. Traditionally Lent is a time of giving up those things that hold us back, and leaning into new habits that enhance our relationships with God, others, and ourselves. Ash Wednesday is a perfect time to begin that process through worship, prayer, and meditation.

Maundy Thursday – April 13th, Marshfield UMC, 7:00pm – Joining in worship with our fellow believers from the Marshfield United Methodist Church is one of the great traditions of these two congregations. The UMC church will host this year, the combined choirs will lead in worship, Pastor Alex will preach and we will join in celebrating communion as one body of faith. This is truly a highlight of the year.

Good Friday – April 14th, MCC, 7:00pm – This year we are inviting Marshfield United Methodist, and anyone from the community, to join us for a walk through the final hours of Jesus’ life. We will be engaging in the Stations of the Cross, in a unique and interactive format. Mobility will not be an issue as we will remain in the sanctuary for the duration of the event. This unique time of worship is a powerful precursor to the joy of Easter morning, as we encounter the depths of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

Easter Sunrise Service, 7:00am – This year we planning to have the Sunrise service outside around the fire pit. With Easter coming late in the calendar this year, we hope that the weather will allow us to enjoy the beauty of creation as we celebrate the new life we find in the empty tomb. The sunrise service features dramatic elements that allow for us to experience the resurrection in a tangible way, and is a great way to start the morning.

Easter Breakfast, 8:00am – Easter Breakfast will be a continental breakfast this year. Bagels, scones, breakfast breads, and maybe even doughnuts, will be available following the sunrise service, all the way up to Easter Worship at 10:30. This is a great way to start the day, or refuel for Sunday School and Worship!

Sunday School, 9:30am – We will have Sunday school for all ages on Easter morning. This is a great way to interact with the story of the resurrection, and how that singular event changes the course of our lives. Please plan on joining us as we celebrate and study the story of Jesus’ resurrection.

Easter Worship, 10:30am – Our Easter Celebrations will conclude with Easter Worship at 10:30am. We join together on this day to give thanks to God for the gifts of salvation, new life, and transformation that we find in the resurrection of Jesus. Please plan on joining with us as we worship God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer through prayers, songs, scripture and preaching. Easter it truly a time of awe and wonder, something that should be shared with our fellow believers!