Random reflections on a new discovery!
Experimenting in searching for relevant things to share in this new blog…..
I have discovered a wonderful, “Open and Affirming” church in Omaha., Nebraska. It is the Countryside Community Church (http://countrysideucc.org/). I learned of this UCC church several years ago through the music director, Jim Larrabee. He is a young man who leads a fantastic group of talented youth vocalists in this church called “Faith Singers”. They sing on a regular basis in worship. They also go on an annual tour that takes them to the four corners of the country in sharing inspiring music. What a great experience for these youth and the variety of expressions of faith they experience and share with others.
“Faith Singers” came to Saginaw in June of 2011. While we enjoyed hosting this choir at the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, the real story for me is with Jim Larrabee. Jim Larrabee was an active member of the first youth group I worked with as an Associate Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Davenport, Iowa. Jim was active in the choir and youth group. His dad, Nelson Larrabee, was the choir director in that same Davenport church for many years before my arrival in 1976, YES, 1976. That was 37 years ago. (Jim and I are not quite as young as we used to be!) It’s great to see a young man who was in a youth group do so well professionally and in sharing his faith with others. I thank him for his ministry!
Through my brief re-introduction to Jim Larrabee in 2011, I was introduced to the ministries and programming of the CountrysideCommunityChurch, a United Church of Christ congregation that is an
“Open and Affirming community. Here, all people are treated as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class. We are diverse, yet united by Christ’s example. We care for one another, support one another and challenge one another to become all that God creates us to be. We work together to nurture our community and to promote peace and justice in our conflicted world.”
I love this statement found on their web page. I also love searching the internet for churches like this that speak to me of faith in Jesus Christ that is relevant and contemporary in expression. While I have not made a trip to Omaha to visit this church, I feel “at one” with much of what I see and hear through the internet, Vimeo and with YouTube sermons. Because of my interest in how the church can grow in learning to speak through social media to a new generation of Christians, I was immediately drawn to this particular church.
Another ministry of this church is experimental – a coffee-house type ministry called “Darkwood Brew”. What really caught my attention was one of their Sunday night programs with Brian McLaren as a guest. From this brief encounter (via the internet) I have had a chance to learn more about “Convergence Christianity” While hard to describe in a short blog, this ministry allows persons of faith – searchers like me, to engage in an exciting conversation about things I have been yearning for and can now explore intellectually and theologically. I am only sad that I didn’t discover this program twenty years ago! Churches wishing to expand their “social media” outreach should pay attention to what Dr. Elnes and the “Darkwood Brew” cast are doing.
What is the “Darkwood Brew”? Their web site is http://darkwoodbrew.org/
“DWB is a renegade exploration of Christian faith for the modern world. This weekly program blends ancient contemplative practices developed by Benedictine monks with cutting-edge media technology. We add a whole bunch of caffeine just to keep things moving. The setting is our amazing coffee house. It’s exhilarating, experiential and groundbreaking. You don’t want to miss it.”
As I search for ways to communicate through the use of the internet, I hope this short introduction has stimulated some interest.
My belated thanks to Jim Larrabee, “Faith Singers” in introducing me to something that has been growing in my heart for over a quarter century – a relevant ministry touching the lives and hearts of Christians outside the context of the traditional church.
 From the web page of the church, http://countrysideucc.org/
 See Blog of Dr. Eric Elnes, “Darkwood Brew” Blog, August 2012.