To All Participants in Fountain Vineyard
I hope you are well!
We are thoroughly on our way in re-engaging in meaningful numbers in gathering again! Thanks for all the cautions as well as positivity we have been able to process as we walk together in these strange Covid19 times. I would like us to proactively recognise some key truths: 1. UNITY We certainly need to continue to 'diligently keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'. There are many conflicting voices, opinions and news items that clamour for followers. We do well to remind ourselves that our One Foundation is Jesus Himself. He has taught us to reach for the maturity that welcomes diversity in unity and unity in diversity. It grows us! Paul too encourages us to accommodate differences in secondary matters such as in meat and wine and views of pagan practices (Rom 14). He warns against causing a brother to stumble over a difference of opinion or practice, a brother for whom Christ died! 2. INNOVATION We have all experienced a significant RESET during this extended LOCKDOWN. Our use of social media has escalated. We are also Livestreaming many of our events to both accommodate those who are unable to gather as well as those further afield. We need patience and upskilling as we develop in this area. 3. HEALING Not only has this pandemic impacted health and wealth, or lives and livelihoods, but also the area of soulcare and relationships. As a result, we have seen an increase in anxiety and depression. Our sense of leading to go ahead with building the Eden Life Centre is timeous for facilitating healing opportunities. Karen and team are positively engaged with developing what I believe will be a fruitful space for growth and recovery for many. Obviously this is also a huge step toward meeting the needs of the burgeoning Children's Ministry with Shelley and Youth with Josh. The upcoming Healthy Sexuality Conference is part of this. 4. HOSPITALITY With the relaxing of some of the restrictions on gathering we are welcoming significant numbers of newcomers to Fountain Vineyard. We will need to be very diligent to exercise positive hospitality toward all who come. It is a season of realignment of relationships and friendships. Let's be sure to be as welcoming and authentic as Jesus! The VISION AND VALUES weekend (30 April to 2 May) is just such an opportunity, as well as simply attending what you can to help welcome others, notwithstanding Covid19 cautions. 5. ROLES In these changing times some roles are opening up for change. We are wanting to encourage a fresh adventure in volunteering! Be on the lookout for the many opportunities being presented. 6. GRATITUDE Let's do all things soaked in thanksgiving! Our FINANCES should be a prime expression of this. Our tithes(by EFT or in the dropsafe) are saying: 'Father, you HAVE provided. Thank You. I trust You. I believe in what You are doing in and through Fountain Vineyard'. Our Offerings (in the baskets on Sundays) are saying: 'Freely I have received, freely I give. We care about those in need'. Colleen and I thank you for the ongoing adventure of serving in leadership.
Ps. You may find the article I was asked to write for the Herald this week, valuable. Here it is: FOR YOUR INFORMATION: Article published in the Herald (Church in the Community) today, 19 April 2021. Written by Dr Dave Pedersen, National Director, Vineyard SA. Blame shifting, a crippling virus “It’s not my fault!” “You made me do it.” “She drove me to it.’’ “I can’t help myself.’ “It’s the government’s fault. We are pawns.” From the earliest of times, we are reminded of our tendency to absolve ourselves of responsibility. Adam blamed Eve. She blamed the serpent. And the snake, as they say, didn’t have a leg to stand on. We may not be responsible for what happens to us but we are free to choose our responses. We may not be able to stop the birds flying over our heads but we can choose whether to let them nest in our hair! It is a fundamental reality that we are free to choose. To do so we need to learn the difference between two four letter words: Can’t and Won’t. There is a huge difference between “I can’t stop having this affair” and “I won’t stop this affair”. In fact, the first step toward freedom is often to simply acknowledge that it is about the will, our choices, not our abilities. Obviously, the freedom to take responsibility must be cultivated, and the earlier the better. I realised this very painfully as I reflected on my father’s death by suicide nearly 40 years ago. His struggle with reactive depression and residual patterns of coping emotionally need not have resulted in the action he took. He need not have been a pawn of his history. He did acknowledge in his journal that suicide “would be a denial of all he believed and preached for 36 years”. Unfortunately, it became his reality. It needn’t have been this way. The Gospel of Jesus leads to healthy church defined by therapeutic connecting. This is guided by the appropriate application of two truths in Galatians 6. The first is that we are called to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law, the way, of Christ. The second is that each one should carry his own load. Compassion and Empowerment! Meier and Minirth wrote a book some years ago whose title says it all: Happiness is a Choice. Not to exercise that choice for positive gain is to be trapped by the crippling virus of blame shifting. We so easily blame it on others, on apartheid, on racism, on the Big Six NEC. It is not helping the morale of our nation that blame shifting is so tolerated or encouraged by those in authority. In the famous parable of the Prodigal Son told by Jesus, the waywardness of the returning prodigal is joyfully forgiven by the father as the son owns his mistakes. He “comes back to his senses” implying that he had taken leave of his senses by his entitlement thinking. Now as he rejects blame shifting his second chance at a better life opens up. In contrast, his older brother is still trapped in his entitlement and blame shifting by asserting that his less than satisfying life was due to the father’s neglect or indifference. This hardworking son was missing the point that the father was first and foremost a loving source of connection rather than a hard taskmaster requiring performance-based merits. Religious judgmentalism often makes this mistake. We see this in the encounter of Jesus with the woman caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to Him by some religious leaders in order to trap Him into breaking the Law. Jesus simply scribbled in the dust and said ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’. He then continued writing in the dust. Remarkably at this point the accusers began to withdraw, “the older ones first”. What was He writing? Some have speculated that He wrote their names in the dust! In any case He was correcting their view of blame. And of misogyny! These men blamed her for the adultery! Like the man involved couldn’t/wouldn’t help himself. When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba he was confronted by Nathan the prophet who helped him see that he was responsible. He owned this in Psalm 51 where he says: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; …. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so, you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.” (Psalms 51:1-6 NIV). He does not blame anyone or anything but himself, and acknowledges that he was free to choose – and that he chose wrong. No blame shifting here. David leaned into God and His Steadfast Love. This is why he was known as a man after God’s own Heart. The same can apply to each one of us, when we acknowledge that we are responsible for our wrongdoings. Dr Dave Pedersen, National Director, Vineyard SA.