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  • Writer's pictureTom Emanuel


“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” --C.S. Lewis

I’m a music nut, if you hadn’t noticed! And lately I’ve been thinking about jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman.

In 1959, Coleman released an LP entitled The Shape of Jazz to Come. The title was accurate: his free-form explorations were certainly linked to the jazz stylings of the past. But he was adventuring into previously-uncharted territory, playing with melody, harmony, and form to create something both familiar as well as brand-new. At the time, listeners were split. Some admired Coleman’s daring musical innovation. Others regarded him as a fraud, a purveyor of pure “noise.”

God is a consummate innovator, too. “I am about to do a new thing,” the Prophet Isaiah says on God’s behalf. “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (43:19) There’s great excitement in newness. But I also know, from personal experience, how nerve-wracking it can be! It can feel as though the ground is being pulled out from under you, and the old signposts are no longer visible, or don’t point where you thought they did.

The trick, for me, is remembering that our God is not just the God of new things, but also the God of our ancestors. The SALT Project’s online bible commentary puts it like this: “God typically works through signature poetic patterns; if that’s true, our ancestors reasoned, then scripture and salvation history will rhyme.” I love that: the past and the present “rhyme.” The seeds of what’s yet to be are already present, somehow, in what’s here right now.

As we reimagine our ministry together in these coming weeks and months, the “shape of ministry to come” is already becoming clearer. UCC Watertown is a place where we love to share good food and good music. It is a place where we have the freedom to ask questions and discuss big ideas. It is a place where we are already opening our arms to our LGBTQ neighbors. We have joy, excitement, and a beautiful, historic building with lots of potential. These are the “signature poetic patterns” of UCC Watertown. Whatever comes next will draw on these strengths.

I invite you then to consider these QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK, whether you’re a member or not:

  • Where do I imagine my community in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

  • Where do my gifts and passions intersect with the open and affirming ministry that is emerging in our midst?

  • Where do I feel called to serve in the “shape of ministry to come”

Transformation doesn’t happen automatically. It takes all of us stepping up to lead, taking risks like Ornette Coleman did, and putting in our “sweat equity” to make God’s vision a reality. As former President (and UCC-er!) Barack Obama once said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

So: let’s step up! Serve on a committee. Join a working group. Sign up to be a worship leader. Cook a meal for Wednesday Youth Church. Volunteer with Meals on Wheels. Listen empathically to the story of an LGBTQ person who has been hurt by the Church. Reach out to those in our community who are already working for justice and ask, “How can I help? How can we help?”

For God is about to do a new thing! This week, let us not only perceive it, but believe it. And let us take action in the faith that new things aren’t just on the way… they’re already springing forth.

Blessin’s, --Tom

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