Richmond Hill is a retreat center located on a hill overlooking downtown Richmond, Virginia. According to the brochure, the Sisters of the Visitation of Monte Maria came to Richmond in 1866 at the end of the Civil War to pray for the healing of the city. They moved into two of the city’s older mansions and turned them into a place of prayer. You can still join the community three times a day for prayer and worship.
I was there along with other ministers for a one day retreat where we worshiped with the Richmond Hill community. The services were simple and contained long sometimes uncomfortable periods of silence. But there was something extraordinary about the setting. You could feel the presence of God within every part of the building. I came away from the retreat center feeling refreshed and thankful.
During a break, I found a quiet place to read a daily devotion stored in my Kindle. One statement from a favorite author was especially meaningful. I typed the quote on my smartphone and posted it on Facebook. At the same time, I received an email from someone requesting prayer. After replying, I forwarded the email to my prayer network.
Stop. Wait a minute. Isn’t something wrong with this picture?
· First, I describe a beautiful experience of worship and prayer.
· Then, I’m reading eBooks, posting on Facebook and sending emails everywhere?
Two weeks ago, I wrote about: “Blockbuster Declares Bankruptcy.” What happened? The enjoyment and love of experiencing movies didn’t change but the ways we watch movies did. Blockbuster, slow to adapt to those changes, eventually dwindled in size and influence. Then I asked: Has the church been slow to adapt to a changing culture? Like Blockbuster, have we responded with too little, too late?
Next: I shared three letters to help us understand problem areas within the church.
· We don’t communicate in modern terminology to those who struggle with belief in God.
· We are not helping to connect those who feel disconnected from the church.
· We appear self-centered and do not reflect the love of Christ in conversation and action.
At the retreat center, I experienced the timeless basics of our faith. We pray. We worship. We fellowship. We encourage. We grow. We witness. We serve.
The future of the church depends upon remembering, teaching and living out the basics of our faith while at the same time learning to communicate with those who feel disconnected using every tool at our disposal whether through music, Bible study, worship, email prayer networks or the social media. Most importantly, we do everything reflecting the love and grace of Jesus Christ in our conversation and action.
The author of Hebrews writes: “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:7-8)
· Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God.
· Think of the good that has come from their lives and follow the example of their faith.
· Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Remember your leaders. Follow their example. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
When the Sisters of the Visitation of Monte Maria came to Richmond, they firmly established the church in the midst of a suffering city. Years later, we can still learn from their example. Prayer, worship, fellowship, encouragement, growth, witness and service still matter whether in a 150 year old monastery or as a posting on Facebook. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Tomorrow: A Special Halloween related story. Then…