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In As Much Ministry Offers Food Value to Needy by Neita Geilker

Around three years ago, when Ava first arrived at Freedom House to visit the Link In As Much food pantry, she was almost overwhelmed. The large entry room where numbers are given out was full of noisy clients waiting for their number to be called while they completed a checklist of available items from the pantry. The next step in this highly organized process moved them into the room where their identification would be confirmed and where they would receive a certificate for a gallon of milk at Price Chopper.

Next, they were invited to sit at a table opposite a volunteer who could confirm the food items from the list they had checked and pass it on to the volunteers helping with that distribution. When Ava’s items were ready, her name was called at the pantry window prompting her to push her cart to that window to receive an impressive selection of the items she had requested. She then heard her name again from the commodities window and received a box of government commodities filled with surprises. At that point, she was free to select from a variety of bread and baked goods donated by HyVee and also to select from among the array of produce that had been contributed. Finally, she waited with her milk ticket to be called into an office to have it validated.

Completing that process, she rolled her cart, heavy by now, to the car she had come in and unloaded her groceries. Ava had heard about the food pantry before she was able to visit it. Off Plummers Way, close to the Clay County Health Department, it was too far to walk. Only when a friend offered to take her did it become possible. She can receive pantry items and milk twice a month, commodity items once a month, and bread every week. She is grateful to have a ride and has requested that another resident of her apartment building be permitted to accompany her.

In addition to benefitting from adequate nutrition for herself, on occasion, she can feed a child or grandchild who might stay with her overnight or even for the weekend.

Before using the resources of the pantry, Ava regularly walked to Price Chopper from her apartment near the Square and carried home what she could in shopping bags, but with diminished food stamps, she was struggling.

What Ava does not see at In As Much Ministry is the amazing volunteer structure, which makes the pantry possible. During the year, the 200 to 300 all-volunteer staffers (many from Second Baptist) work two shifts on Thursday and one on Saturday morning, with an annual value in services of $650,000. Although Ava struggles to face the crowds when she goes, she has no idea that the pantry actually serves 500 separate family units during the year.

at Friday, October 20, 2017 | 0 comments
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Congregational Singing by David Fulk

When I was asked to write a blog article, I decided my topic immediately: congregational singing. It is, without question, my favorite thing about church.

I’ve always been singing. My first memories of singing are with my mom who also loved to sing. We sang together with mom playing an old upright piano. We had a hymnal but sang mostly out of paperback songbooks which I still have. We seemed to sing the same ones a lot, “The Cattle on a Thousand Hills” (appropriate since we raised cattle!), “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “His Name is Wonderful.” Mom and I would always give each other knowing looks when we sang these at church.  

At six or seven, I decided I wanted to play the hymns, not just sing them. At home by myself I sat at the piano singing from the hymnal, pounding out a jumble of notes, moving my hands and arms over the keyboard like I was doing calisthenics. I sang loudly. The dog howled. Instead of hearing the awful sounds coming from the piano, I heard a congregation singing to wonderful accompaniment. In my high school years, I really got connected to congregational singing…not as a singer, but as the worship pianist. (By this time I could play the notes!) 

I fell deeply in love with congregational singing when I first came to Second…people who sang in harmony, embellished accompaniments, and, of course, last stanza descants!

So this congregational singing love affair has been going on now for nearly 33 years. What’s your story on congregational singing? How did you come to love it? (I know I’m making an assumption.) Regardless of how little or much you love congregational singing, here are some components I think make a big difference when we sing together.

Text: Hymn texts are often as important to us as biblical texts. They’re as familiar, and they’ve helped shape our faith, particularly in times of challenge and joy.

Accompaniment: The accompaniment of a hymn can make a big difference in how we sing and get absorbed into the singing. The added instruments and their embellishments, thanks to our capable accompanists, lift our singing heavenward.

Harmony: Hymns can be sung in unison on the melody note, or in harmony. Most all of our hymns are printed with chords so harmony can be sung if the singer chooses. Harmony, like many things in life, can give us a broader perspective on something extremely familiar. This can be as nice as a soft breeze in a stuffy room. Harmony provides texture and color to the text.

Shared Experience: Whether you think you’re a good singer or not, there really is something to the scriptural phrase of “making a joyful noise.” Each of us has a voice bringing an individual component to the singing. But as a congregation, something wonderful happens. We are sharing in something together. Our collective singing illustrates working together and support for each other as we lift praise God.

A cappella Singing: Singing a grand hymn with lots of instrumentation can make spirits soar. Singing without accompaniment can create a deeply personal moment connecting us to God. It takes a lot of confidence to sing a cappella because we’re on our own. This is where harmony makes the difference. I love that we’re unafraid to sing a cappella.

In my recent perspective as the interim worship leader, I’ve had confirmed how important the song leader is in helping the congregation feel comfortable and confident in singing, especially when singing something new or difficult.

Planning is equally important. For each hymn, Ann Posey usually finds different accompaniments for herself, the pianist and instrumentalists to use on each stanza of a hymn. We decide in advance if it’s men or women only,  when it's sung a cappella, when the setting should be played and sung softer or louder. This combined thought greatly enriches our singing experience.

Congregational singing is the highlight of worship for me. When this interim ends I’ll miss leading our singing. We do it well. Let’s never take for granted we are a singing church!

Is anyone else craving a hymn sing?

at Wednesday, October 18, 2017 | 0 comments
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Snakes and Whales, Gardens and Beaches by Charles Smith

Student Ministry by Charles Smith

“I have a theological question for the group.”

I scooch my chair a bit closer to the table, wrap my hands around the slowly-cooling mug of caramel-flavored coffee, and wait for the student to ask her question. She glances around at the seven other people sitting at a table in the back room of Hammerhand Coffee, pausing to ensure her question would be given the appropriate level of deference and esteem.

Satisfied, she pulls out a spiral notebook and turns to a page that has several drawings scattered across it. The sketches, doodles really, depict snakes coiled in a multitude of shapes and positions. One shows a snake curled into the shape of a circle. Another shows one arched like an upside-down U with a shoe attached to each end.

After we look at these a moment, exchanging questioning glances, the student says, “In Social Studies today we were talking about the creation story in the Bible and about the punishments each one gets. The man has to work hard, the woman will have painful childbirth, and the snake has to slither on the ground. That’s why snakes slither.”

I nod and say, “Sure,” mentally preparing myself for possible questions about divine judgment or Biblical literalism. “That’s what the story says.”

“Well,” she says, clearly ramping up to her central question, “We were wondering in class, how did the snake get around in the garden before? If it didn’t slither until it was punished, how did it move? Did it walk? Did it roll? We drew pictures of some possibilities, what do you all think?”

Small Groups are an incredibly important part of relational student ministry. They are a chance to come together and talk about the ways our individual perspectives, motivations, and experiences shape us and help us learn who we are and what we believe. They are an opportunity for personal growth and community bonding. And they are also a time for asking questions, any questions, especially questions that students feel like they can’t, or shouldn’t, ask anywhere else.

One of the things I love most about ministering with students is getting the chance to see how their minds work. Our small group leaders do an excellent job of planning effective ways to lead a conversation on a given subject. But they also know that at any point a student might steer the discussion in a new direction, and sometimes this takes the conversation to a whole new level. One of the deepest conversations I’ve experienced in small groups started with the question, “Why do whales sometimes beach themselves?”

The question about snakes walking around in the Garden of Eden didn’t really lead us to a deep, ontological truth or spur us to make a life-altering perspective change. It did get us thinking, though, and helped us ponder in new ways a story we’d all heard many times before. That’s what small groups are about. They’re about snakes and whales, gardens and beaches, social studies and doodles, asking questions with no answers, and understanding ancient stories in new ways.

Posted by Charles Smith at Friday, October 13, 2017 | 0 comments
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