Missional Community Spotlight: Single Women Celebrating Life Together

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In June 2017, Jill Khan entered a season of loneliness, unlike anything she’d ever experienced.

Her marriage of 26 years had come to an end.

“I never imagined I’d be in that position,” she recalls. “I was heartbroken. It was an entirely different world.”

Although she’d attended Christ Presbyterian Church for 15 years, she realized after her divorce how isolating it can feel to participate in congregational life as a single, especially when someone is no longer part of the ‘young adult’ age group. Whether a woman has always been single—or has recently divorced or lost a spouse—Jill discovered a significant number of ladies who could greatly benefit from community and care.

Seeing the need for connectedness and encouragement among single women both at church and throughout Nashville, Jill worked with Christ Presbyterian to launch a new Missional Community last fall called Single Women Celebrating Life Together.  

Jill joined with two other single women who attend different congregations—Christi Wilson from Church of the City and Kristi Mcintyre from Christ Community Church in Franklin—to create a group aimed at connecting single women from a myriad of churches in the area and those who don’t currently attend church.

“The group exists to empower and encourage single women of all ages who are living on their own by getting together a few times each month for celebrations, social outings, monthly meals and learning opportunities that provide fellowship and an avenue for building meaningful friendships,” Jill explains.

In the past eight months, the group has drawn interest from more than 75 women, ranging in age from those in their 30s to their 70s and geographically spanning from ladies who live in the West Nashville/Kingston Springs area to those in south Williamson County/Spring Hill. So far, the group is comprised of women from seven different area churches, as well as many ladies looking for a home church. Interest and growth of the group has occurred organically, often just through word of mouth. At least one woman became connected through discovering the group’s Facebook page, Jill says.  

A few recent activities included meeting for brunch at First Watch and a fun after-church Mexican lunch at Uncle Julio’s in Brentwood. Some members also participated in the Christ Presbyterian women’s spring overnight retreat. In past months, the group attended Handel’s Messiah together and organized Christmas and New Year’s parties. They also painted pottery and gathered at Maggiano’s Italian restaurant for Valentine’s Day dinner. In April, the group is planning to have brunch and see the spring blooms at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. The May outing will include a meal at the Loveless Cafe and hike on the Natchez Trace.

Group participants range from women who’ve always been single and are happily unmarried to those who are praying and waiting on God to provide a spouse. Others are widowed or divorced. “Some of the women have been through serious trauma,” Jill says. “They’re dealing with brokenness from their past, while also working full-time and managing their homes and children. Everything is on their shoulders, and it can be exhausting. The opportunity for them to relax and be rejuvenated with others walking the same road is a blessing. We’re here to support, love and pray for these women.”

In the future, the group desires to continue planning social gatherings while also offering education and practical learning opportunities that can empower single women, such as career development, financial planning, caring for aging parents and learning how to complete small home and auto repairs (Jill says she needs to take on the project of sealing her deck this summer.)

Reflecting over the last year, Jill is grateful to see how God used her own painful, unexpected journey of becoming single to meet the needs of other women in the same position.

“In the past, I never would have imagined myself leading a group for single women,” she says. “Throughout my life, I’ve known a few singles, but I never really thought about their daily walk. I’d be sad when I heard of people getting divorced or becoming widowed. While I prayed for them, I never really gave much thought  as to how their circumstances had truly impacted their life.”

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Yet her perspective changed when Jill’s own marriage ended. “I felt great sadness and fear of being alone,” she says. “Yet I also felt amazing joy as Christ lifted me up, made his presence known and gave me hope amid chaos.”

Single Women Celebrating Life Together exists to serve as a place where Christians and non-Christians alike can prayerfully find fellowship with women who are ready to embrace them, love them unconditionally and share with them the message of Colossians 2
—that as women come to know the Lord, they’re complete in Christ, Jill explains.

“We encourage women to view their singleness as an opportunity and privilege that God will use for his glory.”

Missional Community Spotlight: Sweet Monday Nashville

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Sometimes the greatest movements start from the most simple of ideas.

That's certainly the case with Sweet Monday Nashville -- one our missional communities here at Christ Presbyterian. One Monday every month, women from around Nashville meet in small groups to share their stories, sample a little sugary something, and connect with each other and Christ.

One Sweet Invitation at a Time

True to Sweet Monday's mission of "reaching women for Christ, one sweet invitation at a time," the group keeps its focus simple as well. Each gathering is an outreach of "fun and faithfulness."

"We laugh a lot and learn from each other," hostess Paula Nelson says, adding that her "hope is that women leave with encouraging words from scripture."

Each month is focused on a different theme. For example, January was all about time management. The March gathering focused on comfortable and fashionable shoes. In May, the group will talk about new, fun smart phone apps.

The leadership team wraps up each meeting, tying the theme into a spiritual focus. And don't forget the dessert--there's always something to sweet to sample during the conversation.

So What's the Catch?

Here's the beauty of Sweet Monday: There is no catch.

There's no obligation, no guided curriculum, no pressure to sign up for a long period of time, no need to be part of a church, no need to be a Christian. Nashville friends and neighbors come and go as they like, stay a bit longer for more conversation, and never have to register for anything. The entire experience is guilt free--well, except for the dessert.

The group isn't preachy or stuffy -- so it's appealing to a lot of women who may never step inside a church. So many women are hungry to hear the gospel and desperate for connection.  Sweet Monday, over time, has helped fill that void.

Because it's based on the Great Commission, the mission statement of this missional community will never go out of style. "It will evolve and may be different based on the leader, the topics will change over time, but the core of Sweet Monday will always be the same," Paula says.

If you have questions about Sweet Monday, feel free to contact Sarah Catherine Wheeler directly at scbwheeler@hotmail.com.

You can also find the local Sweet Monday Nashville group on Instagram: @sweetmondaynashville

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Missional Community Spotlight: Putting Faith to Work

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Every parent desires to see their children flourish and become increasingly independent as they enter adulthood. But for moms and dads of children with disabilities, this hope can feel uncertain. 

“Once an adult with a disability turns 22, almost everything vanishes in terms of schools, programs or camps,” explains Christ Presbyterian Church member C.B. Yoder. “On average, 95 percent of these young adults are unemployed.”

For many years, Christ Presbyterian has offered a Sunday morning class for young adults with disabilities, providing great support to families on the weekend. Three years ago, however, a new opportunity arose that’s given the church an additional way to come alongside families with disabilities throughout the week. 

It began when faculty from nearby Vanderbilt University proposed a grant-based study in partnership with several area churches, including Christ Presbyterian, to discover the best way to find meaningful work for adults with disabilities.

What started as a year-long study paved the way to the formation of the Christ Presbyterian missional community, Putting Faith to Work. Yoder was one of the group’s founding members and has seen it flourish as she and others have found ways to support families through finding both paid work and volunteer opportunities for young adults with disabilities who attend Christ Presbyterian.

“Instead of just searching for job openings, we learned to begin with discovering each person’s talents and gifts,” Yoder explains. “We started hosting get-togethers, called a ‘person-centered party,’ where parents invite people who know their child well. We discuss what the young adult enjoys doing, his or her strengths and so on. Then we begin to pray, asking God to show us a path forward for this young person.”

Throughout the last three years, the group has helped one young woman, Kate, find work in Vanderbilt’s housekeeping department. Another young adult, Clayton, began a position as a greeter at Nashville Predators hockey games. A woman named Katie received a job at a local pizza restaurant. And a young man named Nathan found work volunteering weekly at Christ Presbyterian, helping provide refreshments for church members Sunday mornings.

Yoder says she’s seen each young adult blossom as they’ve learned to take on new responsibilities. She remembers how Katie bubbled over with excitement when she received her first paycheck. “She loves going shopping, so being able to purchase an outfit with her own money for the first time was thrilling,” Yoder says.

For Katie and the others who’ve found meaningful work, the reality of a newfound purpose in their lives has resulted in a noticeable shift.

“They carry themselves a little differently,” Yoder explains. “There’s such value in earning your own money and becoming more independent. Work is a gift from God.”

Giving these young adults an increased sense of independence has also become a way to support their parents. For some moms and dads, the initial process of letting go is challenging (such as allowing their child to learn to navigate Uber in order to arrange for transportation to work). But once the young adults get the hang of it, their sense of freedom and accomplishment has brought pride to both parents and their children. It’s also begun making a difference among those in the community who’ve hired these young people. 

“The employers of these young adults want them there--they’ve seen the value of their work,” says Yoder. “People such as Katie are faithful, responsible and do their jobs well. They’re reliable and cherished employees.”

They’re also image bearers of Christ, Yoder adds--a truth that becomes evident as people both at church and in the workplace gain more opportunities to get to know and work alongside young adults with disabilities. 

“These kind of interactions put a face on a people group that often can otherwise seem invisible because they’re easy to ignore,” says Yoder. “The benefit for us and for employers is that young adults with disabilities go from anonymous to being known by name and valued for their contributions.”

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For other missional community opportunities, and more information on how to start one yourself, visit christpres.org/missional-communities

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

Missional Community Spotlight: Mug and Pencil

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"I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word." - Emily Dickinson

If you've ever sat down to write a difficult email and struggled over what to say, you know the importance of choosing the right word.

Words have power. Just a few small words, a phrase that takes seconds to utter, can bring happiness or hurt, encouragement or devastation.

That's the tension Patrick Lockwood, a Worship and Music Associate at CPC, wanted to dig into when he started Mug and Pencil, a missional community here at Christ Presbyterian. Our missional communities were created to serve the city of Nashville. They always include members and non-members who want to meet, get to know each other, and grow as people over shared interests.

Mug and Pencil is a missional community built to serve artists--specifically creative writers.

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"We're a group of creative writers--songwriters, poets, novelists, scriptwriters, article writers, both professional and amateur, who want a place to just be sharpened and talk about writing and the power of words," Patrick says. "We share pieces that we've been working on. Some people share songs, others share poetry, and we do so, usually, in a small setting by a fireplace over food and a glass of wine."

The group has been meeting for four years now, once a month at the houses of different group members. On occasion, they'll have successful and intriguing guest speakers come in to inspire and encourage the community. "One thing I like about our group," Patrick says, "is that we're not about just doing stuff for the sake of doing it. We're about becoming better writers who use our words to make Nashville and the world a better place."

Nashville isn't lacking in writers, but Mug and Pencil's goal is to give those writers a vision that might even go beyond just writing a hit song or a featured poem. One newly married couple wrote their first song together through an exercise in the group. Another member overcame a difficult past and was encouraged by the group to find a new freedom in writing.

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Patrick tells the story of one particular exercise that had a huge impact on Mug and Pencil's members: "We asked them to write their life story in five minutes, no more than eight lines of content. Then we asked them to cut it down to four lines without adding additional writing. Then we asked them to cut it to two lines, followed by one line. Then, finally, two words. The whole process was amazing. Some people were crying as they worked through the words and the feelings behind what they had been through."

Our goal at Christ Presbyterian Church is "to follow Christ in his mission of loving people, places, and things to life." Missional communities, like Mug and Pencil, are designed to empower CPC members to do just that. So, as a church staff, it's incredibly encouraging to see these communities flourish and grow throughout Nashville.

All it takes is something as small as a meeting with others over a laptop and a cup of coffee to lead you to something greater than yourself.

If you want to find out more about Mug and Pencil, contact Patrick Lockwood at plockwood@christpres.org.

For other missional community opportunities, and more information on how to start one yourself, visit christpres.org/missional-communities

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

On My Shelf: Life and Books with Russ Ramsey

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This article, featuring our own Russ Ramsey, was recently published on 12/26/17 by The Gospel Coalition.

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.

I asked Russ Ramsey—pastor and author of several books, including Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (read TGC’s review) and Behold the King of Glory—about what’s on his nightstand, his favorite fiction and biographies, the books he wishes every pastor would read about the arts, and more. (Each Wednesday, Russ curates a story about art on his social media feed. Follow him on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook to get a weekly dose of beauty in your social media feed.)

What’s on your nightstand right now?

I imagine my nightstand is like most folks’—filled with books I plan to read, gave up on, or am actively working through. Some others stay there because I’m always in the process of reading them and like to be near them.

I always keep Scripture in reach. Also, I have a rotation of art books nearby—collections of Vermeer, Edward Hopper, and Rembrandt are in the rotation right now. It calms my sometimes anxious heart to look at something beautiful at the end of the day.

I also love survival stories, so I’m usually reading books about people getting lost in the mountains or at sea. A few years back I suffered a life-threatening affliction, and I found that survival stories brought me a lot of comfort. I still love them because they lend gravity to the story of salvation when I begin to take it for granted.

Also, there are books from friends who also write. I love the creative community that forms among writers, and I love how technology has made it possible to have friendships across long distances. Some books from friends I’ve recently read or am working through now include Jen Pollock Michel’s Keeping Place. She is a true artist, a fantastic writer, and a clear thinker who has a bead on the human experience. Seth Haines is also like that. His beautifully written book Coming Clean is important for its honesty and humility. I’m also reading Scott Sauls’s From Weakness to Strength. Scott’s pastoral voice is so timely and accessible. I just finished Winn Collier’s Love Big, Be Well. It ministered to this pastor’s heart. And lastly, John Blase’s new collection of poems, Jubilee. Poetry is hard work. John reads deep and easy.

What are your favorite fiction books?

Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River and his follow-up So Brave, Young, and Handsome rank near the top of all the fiction I’ve read. As a writer, I marvel at his narrative voice. His stories move me; they’re adventures with high stakes and divine providence. Leif joins together lost innocence and eternal hope in ways that ring so true to me.

I just finished Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s The Yearling. What a powerful book—a slow burn with the best last five pages I can ever remember reading in a work of fiction. They’re meaningless if you don’t read the first 350 pages, but if you do, man, they will knock you over. They pull the story of the end of boyhood into a tight, focused prayer for the renewal of all things.

Wendell Berry is great. Ever heard of him? I kid. I’m especially fond of his short novella Remembering, which tells the story about what happens when one of his Port William characters, Andy Catlett, loses his right hand in a farming accident. It’s a powerful metaphor about what happens when someone loses their hold on the world they thought they knew.

Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It. His prose slips into poetry without notice. He’s a joy to read. This book helped me make sense of my own family in ways that really helped me love them more deeply and lay aside some of my self-righteousness.

Also, I love Cormac McCarthy’s work—especially The Road. I love his writing. It’s so sparse—an exercise in restraint.

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?

I love memoirs. William Zinsser, in Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, distinguishes autobiography from memoir like this: “Unlike autobiography, which moves in a dutiful line from birth to fame, omitting nothing significant, memoir assumes the life and ignores most of it.”

One of my favorite memoirs is Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance [read TGC’s review]. Almost everyone I know who has read this book has said his story helped them make sense of their own.

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard is great too. I’m currently doing some writing on the subject of remembering childhood. I love the way Dillard writes about that subject. Both Dillard and Vance avoid sanitizing their own pasts while still maintaining a respect for the dignity of the broken people in their lives.

What are some books you regularly re-read and why?

Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life because it is a great book about writing, but it’s also an incredible piece of literature. It inspires my own writing.

Also, I try to always be reading something from Eugene Peterson on the pastoral vocation. I revisit his short book The Contemplative Pastor quite a bit.

The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis. That collection of essays has such rich theological ideas about the majesty of God, told with a sense of wonder and reverence.

Tim Keller’s The Reason for God and Making Sense of God [read TGC’s review]. I love how Keller helps put me in the shoes of non-Christian people. These two books really help me better understand people who don’t believe as I do, and they keep me from making cartoon characters out of God’s image bearers.

What’s one book you wish every pastor read on or about the arts/imagination?

Can I name three? First, On Writing Well by William Zinsser [read TGC’s piece on Zinsser]. This is a wonderful, helpful, and clear book about how to write well. He talks about the importance of stripping our writing down to its bare essentials, and I think every preacher could benefit from working on the fundamentals of clear communication. This book will help any writer or speaker think about how to say what to say and what habits to avoid for the sake of clarity. If we make our living working with words, it’s always good to hone our skill with them.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orlund. This is a fantastic book about the psychosis that often happens in the minds and hearts of people who create content for the purpose of presenting it to others. Pastoral work is art as much as it is administration. Actually, more so. Preachers and teachers deal with the same sorts of thoughts, fears, and creative struggles as painters and musicians. By talking about the relationship between art and fear, this book names and helps with a lot of the struggles pastors wrestle with before, during, and after they preach.

Finally, this isn’t a book per se, but more of a habit. I had an art teacher who encouraged us to pick an artist or two and pay attention to them for the rest of our lives. I think this is a great habit—and one we can begin at any time. I chose van Gogh and Rembrandt, but since then I’ve added many others. Following an artist (living or dead) over time is a good way to keep art in play in our lives, to better understand the artists we serve, and to keep ourselves exposed to beauty.

What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

Looking at the books I’ve listed above, one thing I see them reflecting back is a hunger for beauty to be part of my daily life. Also, good literature and good art—both in the pages of Scripture and beyond—remind me that no one has a simple story, and as a pastor and Christian person, I need to have humility and compassion with others. We’re complicated people with complex longings and wounds.

When I was in my 20s I was so confident that my grasp of theology was watertight. I believed I saw and understood things as they were in the sight of God. In more recent years, largely by way of the crucible of affliction, I don’t trust my own perspective as much. One by-product of this is a deep hunger for Scripture. I trust God’s Word to be fully reliable, fully inerrant, fully sufficient. But I’m less self-assured of my ability to casually discern what it’s saying. Story and art invite and cultivate patient thinking and curiosity. I’ll take as much of that as I can get if it means I can love God and love neighbors better.

An Exemplary Prayer

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Every now and then I will feature something that has moved me personally on my blog. This week is one of those occasions. Christine Schaub, a member of Christ Presbyterian Church where I serve as pastor, offered a lovely, biblically rich “Prayers of the People” during services recently. I wanted to share this prayer with you (with Christine’s permission, of course), in hopes that it will enrich your prayers as it has mine.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (July 13, 2014)
By Christine Schaub of Christ Presbyterian Church

O Lord our God, hear the prayers of your people:

Because You are so benevolent, hear our prayers for those in need—lead the jobless to fulfilling work, the homeless to safe dwellings, the hungry to good food, the lonely to thoughtful neighbors, the ailing to kind healers, the sad to cheerful friends, the discouraged to hopeful plans.

And because You are righteous, hear our prayers for integrity in leadership, honesty in business, honor in relationships. Help us to resist losing integrity that once lost is so difficult to restore. Help us to succeed in ways that reflect Your glory and favor.

And because You are so generous, hear our prayers to establish Your kingdom even now—bless this church through our outreach to Nashville, through our loving community towards each other, through our compassion toward healing broken marriages, broken hearts, divided families.

Help us be always sensitive toward the needs of Your people.

Because You are just, hear our prayers for justice for children in the womb, for the weak, the powerless, and those who suffer from corruption of the natural order…even for animals when they are treated cruelly.

And in the midst of your acts of justice, let us remember Your graciousness toward those who repent for offending You…and let us show the same grace toward those who trespass against us.

Help us work always toward peace.

And Lord, because You glory in worship, hear our prayers for the church, illustrated in your Word:

From 2 Timothy: We pray that the church will preach the Word of God without apology.

From Colossians: We pray that the church will devote itself to prayer.

From Acts: We pray that the church will boldly share Jesus as the only hope for salvation.

From John: We pray that the church will worship God in spirit and in truth.

From 1 Peter: We pray that our leaders will serve humbly as godly examples to all.

From Colossians: We pray that the church will labor and strive to present everyone as mature in Christ.

From Matthew: We pray that more workers step up to faithfully serve.

From Ephesians: We pray that our leaders equip the saints for the work of ministry.

From Revelation: We pray that the church does not lose its first love.

From Matthew: We pray that we will trust Jesus to grow the church.

Help us trust always in Your Word.

We pray all these things in Your powerful, kind and generous name. Amen.

This article originally appeared at scottsauls.com on July 22, 2014.