The Conference Corner- OCWM
There are some pretty significant instructions that have been handed down to us through our sacred texts:
- Love God with your whole being (Matthew 22:37)
- Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
- Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 16:19)
- Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)
- Be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)
- (There’s more but you get the idea)
Pretty exciting, huh? The challenge is, we just can’t pick up our mats and head off to Samaria or wherever the ends of the earth are. We can do justice in Great Falls and around the area but beyond that, it’s not always within our reach. We can do a pretty good job of making disciples in our neighborhoods while we’re loving those neighbors but doing so in neighborhoods in Glendive or Iowa is a bit more challenging.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had some friends in the places we cannot be where we can support them? We do! We call it “The Wider Church” and we are in covenant with other UCC folks in those places. Even though we aren’t physically in any of those places, our ministry is extended to them through OCWM – Our Church’s Wider Mission.
It’s our goal to provide a tithe of our operating expenses (10% of our budget) for OCWM. We send that to the Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference to support the work of the conference and the churches throughout the conference. The Conference sends a portion further to the denomination so our presence continues to spread. Through our OCWM, our ministry is extended to places where we physically are not, showing the love of God while loving neighbors around the world, making disciples, doing justice and being Christ’s witnesses.
Due to recent budget shortfalls, we are anticipating a reduction in OCWM. However, you can support the wider church directly by making an extra contribution through FCUCC with the notation “OCWM.”
What “Raised” You?
A little over a year ago, I was invited to participate in a book club. I’d never been part of a book club before but the members of the group that I knew, I admire and enjoy their company so I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s been great. One of the things that is helpful for me is that it gets my head out of church for a while. We don’t read “churchy” books! The book we are currently reading is “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I’m just getting started with it but I can already tell it’s going to be one of my favorites.
In one of the early chapters, the author introduces a chapter by telling how a speaker she once heard introduced himself as “a boy who was raised by a river.” She goes on to wonder, “Did he mean only that he grew up near its banks? Or was the river responsible for rearing him, for teaching him the things he needed to live? Did it feed him, body and soul? Raised by a river: I suppose both meanings are true…”
I began to wonder what I was raised by. Willow trees. There was a row of them along the fence outside my grandparent’s ranch house. They were big and climbable. Someone, a generation before mine, had stuck some old tractor seats between some of the vertical branches close to the ground. Over the years, the trees grew around them and held them snug. They became excellent sitting places for playing and resting. The willow trees nurtured me with shade and sanctuary. They offered small branches to cut and whittle and make whistles and spears and bows and arrows. We could tie Old Cody, (the horse) under their branches and leave him to rest between our turns of riding to the ditch and back. They were what we looked for when we turned off the highway and crested Graveyard Hill to know we had finally arrived. They are still visible on Google Maps.
As I reflect on what it means to be raised by Willows, and wondering what a learned about God from them, I’m finding looking at them as a metaphor is a start. But, it’s not enough. Certainly, there are lessons about God in the shelter and respite they provide. There are lessons about God in their longevity and strength. But I want more. They are more than a metaphor. As I look at them with the eyes of my memory, I begin to understand that God is in them, actually in their fiber, in the bark, in the roots that run deep into the ancient soil shaped by glaciers and slowly, ever-shifting earth. When I rest in the rusty tractor seat embedded in the arms of the Willows, I am literally resting in the arms of God that embraced the generations before me. When I cut a branch to whittle into a whistle, God is giving a part of God’s self to nurture my own creativity. I was not only raised by Willows. I was raised by God.
On the corner of our yard in our home here in Great Falls, there’s an old Willow. If anyone knows where I can pick up some old tractor seats, let me know.