COMMAnts from the Transitional Conference Minister

Grace and peace to you,

As Transitional Conference Minister, I have the honor and privilege of being in worship in a variety of our churches, whether online or in-person.

This past week, I was honored to attend worship online with Meetinghouse Church (Edina) for Maundy Thursday, Wayzata Community Church for Good Friday, and St. Paul’s UCC in St. Paul for Easter Sunday. It was a wonderful experience remembering the last days of Jesus’ life and the Resurrection, but it was also a dizzying reminder of just how much effort goes into making Holy Week and Easter Sunday happen. The music in these three churches alone brought out an extraordinary number of volunteers and professionals – organists, pianists, singers, guitarists, brass players, timpanists, and many more.

In churches small, large, and everywhere in between, we in the Minnesota Conference unite with Christians worldwide when we spend countless hours trying to make these services a blessing for the people we serve. Countless clergy and lay leaders around the world are resting up as much as possible right now from the sheer exhaustion of the past ten days. But when it’s all said and done, it’s worth it, right?

Right?

No matter how committed we are to God and the church, any of us may sometimes doubt whether the efforts of Holy Week are really worth it. If you’re experiencing such doubts this week, you are not alone. At this very moment, there are clergy and lay leaders alike asking themselves these same questions, whether out of exhaustion, prayerful concern, or more. As we in the United Church of Christ find ourselves managing resources that seem to keep dwindling year after year, why do we do it? Why do we go to such lengths to tell and retell the story of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ in these times?

Telling a story may not seem like much in the face of so many global crises. Yet scientists are finding that storytelling – including repeated storytelling – has a powerful and positive impact on people. Paul Zak, head of the Center for Neuroeconomics at Claremont Graduate University, has extensively researched narrative and its impact on people. “We have identified oxytocin as the neurochemical responsible for empathy and narrative transportation,” he writes, adding that “when the brain synthesizes oxytocin, people are more trustworthy, generous, charitable, and compassionate.” I can’t help but notice how closely these results are to what the New Testament calls the fruit of the Spirit.

When we tell and retell the stories of Christ, then, listeners by definition develop increased emotional and spiritual maturity on a foundational level. The narrative(s) we share during Holy Week and Easter Sunday have a profound and observable impact for the good on those who hear it. And if we’re going to really address the crises we are facing right now, we need people who are emotionally and spiritually mature.

So rest up this week, if that’s what you need, then get back to the work of storytelling wherever your ministry takes you. In doing so, you transform the world more than you may ever know, nurturing God’s realm on Earth in ways we desperately need.

Sincerely,
Rev. David B. Lindsey
Transitional Conference Minister

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023