"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal." - John 12:24-25, The Message
I've been thinking about this scripture a lot lately. Tonight, we announced to our community that The Vine's ministry in Haverhill will be ending next month. There are a lot of reasons why this is the case: leadership capacity, financial, mistakes we've made, etc. I won't go into a full dissection of everything right now. We've been at this work of planting The Vine for 5 years and if it doesn't take, no amount of fertilizer, coaxing, singing or whatever is going to make it stand on its own. Hanging on to it and forcing life into it would just destroy this beautiful vision of what church is and could be.
That isn't to say that there hasn't been fruit and that we haven't been church. I'm so glad that we're leaving behind a legacy of God's love and grace and that we have blessed people in our city we haven't even met. There have been parties and laughter and trash pickups and drum circles and tears and games and worship and prayer. Lives have been transformed. Neighborhoods have been cared about. People who have been forgotten have been remembered.
So even in the face of so much change and doubt and worry - I think about this passage. It's appropriate for this time of year when plants begin the transition into death and decay -- all the while spreading the hope of new life throughout the earth. I hope the same is true with The Vine; that even while we are in this time of letting go, the seeds of new life and new beginnings will be scattered, take root, and grow in ways that are beyond our imagination. We have to let it go, trusting that pieces will live on in the people we connected with and in the city we were blessed to love in this way.
But endings still suck, and we are all greiving and there is a lot of this that I am still getting used to. I have no idea what is next (jobs? anyone? What jobs can an M.Div get you?). I trust that it all works out to good things -- and I really do trust that -- but sometimes getting there is not a fun journey. So pray for us. Pray for Ben and I, pray for the people who belong to The Vine, and pray for those whose lives have been impacted by this grand experiment in church. Pray that we can grieve and end well together: with stories, and laughter and tears, knowing that new life awaits.
If you'd like to read our "official statement" about the close of this ministry, you can find it here.
Melissa, Arlene gave a wonderful sermon called Letting Go just before leaving Pleasant St. I encourage you to take a look at it. I'm still thinking about it.
You and Ben are in my thoughts and prayers.
This seems sad, as creative renewal is so needed for the Church. However, where you have planted and helped cultivate, perhaps others will reap. Sometimes many experiments have to "fail" before what is needed can arise.
Blessings for the next part of your journey.
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