March 22, 2007
Hello all. I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. I wanted to let you know that Community of Grace is having a joint Easter Sunrise service with Lake Harriet Christian Church. It will be held at Lake Harriet Christian, 5009 Beard Ave, South in Minneapolis at 7:30 am.
We are still doing some thinking as to the future of Community of Grace. However, last Sunday, something happened that put a smile on face: we had a visitor! The person enjoyed the service and said they will come back. It was surely an answer to prayer. Now, we just need to discern if God still has more to do with Community of Grace.
February 16, 2007
I’m sorry I haven’t posted lately. The last two weeks our small community has been meeting for prayer- nothing special, just singing, praying and sitting in silence.
Except, my mind hasn’t been that silent lately. I guess I’ve been thinking about a lot of things, and in some case I just feel that Community of Grace is going to end its ministry. It’s not fun to do ministry there anymore and it seems that there just wasn’t a need for a new church.
It seems like a shame to me, because I truly believed there was a need for what we are doing. I was looking at craigslist today and saw a post that pretty much summed up what I wanted Community of Grace to be:
Here is the deal I am looking for a church to attend…BUT NOT JUST ANY CHURCH- see my criteria below and let me know if you can suggest a place for me to attend. Would really appreciate your help.
I want a church that is loving and supportive and accepting of all people no matter where they are in their journey with God, no matter their color, religious background, sexual orientation etc. I don’t want a church that claims to be loving and accepting and then tries to tell gay people that they can’t get married, have children, or live life as they do because it is a sin. I am not gay, but I have a lot of gay freinds and any place that could possibly preach love and then be exclusive with their love like that is NOT the place for me.
I would like some place contemporary that has found the balance between living in modern times and relating religion to my world today, but still understands and appreciates tradition and is not ‘too far out’ new age type.I would like a church not get to involved in politics to the point where they try and sway their congregation to vote a certain way. In my opinion, politics and worship have nothing to do with God’s Love.
I don’t necessarily care about denomination- but I am not completely sold on attending a Unitarian type church either. I am a Christian with that being my foundation for worship even though much of the Unitarian concept sounds appealing and inspiring. …I’m not sure.
A place that values music and art and uses these things to help express their love for God. It would be cool if it had a strong community of artists/arts oriented people as well- and therefore the quality of talent being shared to celebrate God is strong.
I would also like something in or near Minneapolis- but I am willing to commute a bit for the right church.
This is the gist. I know it is a tall order- but I hope that someone out there will read this and be able to help me out.
I wish I could tell this person that we are working to create the church they are talking about. This is a church in formation, but it could become the church they want.
I have seen other ads like this on craigslist, and I have responded, hearing nothing.
It’s sad to listen to God’s calling and seeing things not turn out how you expected. I don’t blame God, though. God’s calling doesn’t mean that things will be successful, at least in the human sense.
Maybe a miracle will happen with Community of Grace. Maybe this chapter has to close, I don’t know. I wish things were different, but who knows what God has in store.
January 27, 2007
I wanted to share some of our past sermons. Here’s one from Advent, 2006.
This week has been hell.
Not a good way to start a sermon, I know, but I need to be honest, this week has been sheer hell for me. It’s not been a bad week event wise per se, unless you count the apparent death of my iPod because it went plop into my cat Felix’s water dish. But emotionally, it has been damn hard. It took a lot of energy to finally get excited enough to plan today’s sermon.
What was the source of my unhappiness? It was being the pastor of a new church. We haven’t been able to get new people to come, and it sometimes seems like we can’t get other churches to help us grow and prosper. We are coming to a time when we may have to close the ministry. If that’s not bad enough, you start to wonder if you did something wrong to cause all this. It doesn’t help that I suffer from clincal depression, so when I get down, I really get down. I feel like I’m in a deep valley with now way of getting out. There is no chance of hope.
We really don’t live in very hopeful times. Take a look at the news today and you will see the headlines filled with dire news. The signs of global warming are becoming more evident daily and will wreak havoc on the earth’s climate for our future ancestors. HIV/AIDS is still rampaging the planet, especially among some of the world’s poorest people in places like South Africa or Uganda. Iraqis and American soliders live in daily fear of a car bomb going off while they are at the market or going to worship. The opening years of 21st century seem very bleak and we wonder what kind of world we are going to leave for the children who follow behind us.
Today’s gospel text is doesn’t seem like an Advent text. Here we are, waiting for Christ’s coming into the world, and Jesus decides to take a page from “Left Behind.”
The thing is, I think Jesus was right. He talks about a time that is very dark, indeed. Jesus isn’t trying to be cute, he is being realistic. Bad times were on their way, if not already here. In Jesus time, the Jews were dealing with Roman occupation. There is not much hope here. When Jesus talks about being weighed down, I can relate. Depression in many ways is like a weight that is pressed on your heart and you can’t see that there is any tomorrow at all.
And yet, there is hope. There is hope in the midst of this darkness, just as the Winter Soltice tells us that that the days are getting longer. In this text, he says that the Son of Man is coming and that creation’s redemption is near. That Son of Man is Jesus himself. His coming into the world bring us hope and not just that, it bring us salvation, healing.
The birth of Christ changed everything. This was proof positive that God was not against us, but with us and walked among us. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are redeemed and when Christ returns we will be made new.
This is the hope that we have. It’s the thing that keeps us going; the fact that Christ made us whole before we were born, is prefecting us now and will redeem us on that final day.
Since cold weather is up on us, this is the time of year that I start making chili. One of things I’ve noticed is that if I leave the chili to cook, all the indredients will settle to the bottom. On the surface, it looks like I’m cooking a big pot of tomato soup. So, of course, I get the spoon out and start stirring things up and lo and behold, all the ground beef, chopped tomatoes and onions end up on the top. Before, the soup was weighed down, after I stirred things up, the chili was alive with color and textures.
You’ve noticed that the theme for Advent is “Stir Up Your Power, Lord Christ and Come.” Advent is a time to remind us to be watchful for Christ’s coming into the world. We are stirred out of our boredom and fear and in it’s place given hope. We are stirred to share this message with a world that doesn’t have much hope at all, especially at this time of the year. We are called to stir up the hearts of those facing the first holiday season without a loved one, to stir up those who are facing unemployment, to stir up those who are dealing with depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, to stir up those who are facing a cold night with no place to call home. We are called to share this message of hope in word and in deed.
That is what we, this small community called Community of Grace, must do. We must go out and share that message of hope with others. Tell them about hope. Tell them that God is with them and show that by befriending them. I want people to know that Community of Grace is a place where we share hope with a world that doesn’t have much hope.
A few years ago, the Irish rock group, U2 released a song called “Lemon.” This is one of the few songs, where the lead guitarist, the Edge, actually sings. During one part of the song, while lead singer Bono is singing in a falsetto voice, the Edge sings, “midnight is when the day begins.” Wow. How true that is. Midnight is the darkest of the dark and yet it is the beginning of the day. In a few hours daybreak comes.
We all deal with our dark times. And yet, hope is on its way. It doesn’t mean the problems will go away, but we know that God is with us, there to hold us and remind us that he will be with us for always.
Midnight is when the day begins. Thanks be to God. Amen.
January 27, 2007
This isn’t the best picture in the world of him, but I wanted to share this with people. This is Jim. He has been with Community of Grace since the beginning. I want to share a letter he sent to the Regional office in 2005 when we applied for a grant. He explained how important Community of Grace was to him.
I am writing to strongly support the formal
recognition of Community of Grace as a Disciples of
Christ Congregation. Though I previously attended
churches in both the Episcopal and Catholic faiths, I
have never before experienced the acceptance,
fellowship and spiritual growth that I have since I
joined Community of Grace.
As a gay man, I have often felt alienated by organized
religion, though I never lost my faith in God.
Reverend Dennis Sanders showed me that a church can be
open and affirming. His compassionate and insightful
sermons help me understand how the Bible is relevant
to my life and our world. His Bible studies help me
find comfort and love in the word of God. His
community service projects give me an outlet to help
those less fortunate than I.
In just six months, Community of Grace has grown from
an intriguing idea to an inspirational reality. I
sincerely hope that you will recognize Community of
Grace as a congregation. It has provided me with a
beacon of hope during a difficult time in my life. I
know that if given the opportunity, Community of Grace
will touch many other lives with God’s love and grace.
Evangelism has recieved a bad rap from mainline Protestant churches and for some good reasons. But we are still called to be Christ witnesses. New churches are about sharing God’s love with others. Jim was someone who felt estranged from most churches because of his sexuality and now he has a place to call home. Community of Grace may or may not survive much longer, but at least it made a difference in one person’s life and that’s what matters: changing lives.
January 26, 2007
Let’s see: I grew up in Flint, Michigan (remember “Roger and Me?) the only child of two autoworkers. I went to Michigan State University (Go, Spartans!) and graduated with a degree in journalism. I spent a few years in Washington DC working at various non-profits.
In 1996, I moved to Minnesota. Why Minnesota? Well, it was not too far from Michigan and my uncle Felipe lived here. In 1997, I finally listened to God’s calling and entered seminary.
I graduated in 2001 and became an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 2002.
Itching to do ministry and feeling the call to help plant a church, I took part in starting Community of Grace Christian Church in 2004.
In 2005, I met a guy who has literally brought music to my life. My partner’s name is Daniel and he’s the music director of a local church in the Twin Cities.
The new church has had it’s ups and downs. On the up side, we helped bring someone back to church who hadn’t felt a part of church in a long time because of his being gay. More on that in a separate post.
Right now, we are on a downside. Several people who started with us have moved on and the remaining few wonder what’s next. We wonder if we want to continue. My own feelings are torn between staying and spreading the good news, or just folding up and moving on.
There’s a lot more to share, but that will be in another post. Take care!
January 24, 2007
Hello. My name is Dennis Sanders and I’m the pastor of Community of Grace Christian Church in Minneapolis. We are a new church start that meets every Sunday evening at 6pm at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer.
We are considered an “emerging congregation” of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a mainline Protestant denomination that believes that everyone should have a place at God’s table. You can find out a little more about who we are by going clicking on the “All About Us” tab.
We are a small group of believers that believing in good worship, hospitality (including and especially gays and lesbians) and mission.
We are in the midst of a discernment process right now trying to find out what God has in store for us. We have lost some of our steady members and we need to find out what next. It’s not an easy process, but we are anything if honest. Church is about being who you are in front of God, not some sort of performance.
I will post more about us in the coming days. In the meantime, welcome!
Dennis Sanders, Pastor