Thanks, Growth & (spoiler alert) Ordination

To my friends, especially those who are not currently connected to a faith community, but wonder about it sometimes.

This image is Open Heart's "Mother's Day Family Photo 2023." It was a snapshot of who was at worship that particular morning. That's more than six months ago, as I write this. (And of course, there are several who are still sad they couldn't be there that morning ... Next time!)

Since that photo was taken, many things have happened.

Among them, one of those beautiful people died, and now awaits us on the other side. Another, moved to Colorado to live with his daughter. Another has been absent, caring for a terminally ill spouse. Yet another moved away to attend Marine Corps boot camp, and should actually be home soon... At least for a bit.

Even as some members of the "family" depart the community in different ways, we continue. These individuals and their amazing show of love in everyday life provide a collective witness to one another, to the world around us, and to me, reflecting the goodness of God as expressed through people.

They have helped teach me important spiritual lessons and informed my responses to questions I had to answer recently. With God's leading, and my faith community's humble witness, I was approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry in October to become an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church... I have two more steps to take, but it seems like it will really be happening next summer! The last eight years of education and training as a pastor should culminate in June 2024.

So, I am thankful for this group—including those not shown in the photo—who are such very important faith lives woven together with mine. I give thanks for how God has shown Christ's love through them in a way that I could see and understand and learn. I have grown.

Obviously, this is not a large community in number. We worship with between 35-55 people, plus a few online. We represent ages 1 to 100+ years, are from different backgrounds, races, economic footings, and include several individuals with physical, cognitive or developmental challenges. Some folks have been attending worship here less than a year, while others represent families attending for three generations.

All that to say, we are pretty darn diverse for the number of people that we are. It adds complexity. And challenge.

What ties these people together in such a beautiful way?


The diversity and acceptance I see here has taught me a lot about the love of Jesus Christ. It also reminds me how you can know something in theory, but until you've experienced it in-person, you just don't "know" it the same.

Jesus spent much of his time on earth pulling people who were different, together. He wasn't afraid to recognize those who were labeled—blind, lame, poor, widow, orphan, prostitute, slave, eunuch, legal expert, fisherman, Jew, foreigner, tax collector, or occupying soldier—as first and foremost, PEOPLE of faith. He saw them all as valuable and called them to serve alongside him, or sent them out on his behalf.

The early Christian house churches were also small and reflected diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and more.

It takes a special effort to be part of a small, inclusive and diverse faith community. There aren't very many people to "share the load" and sometimes, YES, the differences create some difficulties... Trying to create sustainable balance and not overextend people is a work in-progress, especially when we are also trying to find new ways to connect with new people.

I recognize that some people are more comfortable when there is less challenge. Me too. LOL.

I mean, life is TOTALLY full of challenges already, right? I get that. But shouldn't we want to grow in our ability to love? Beyond what's comfortable?

Love in the way of Jesus is not about our comfort. Just look at the cross.

But in thankfulness for His great act, growing in the knowledge of such love through practice only makes life better... Not less challenging, but much, much better.

~ Pastor Michele

P.S. All are welcome to come and stretch their growing edges in a diverse community at Open Heart. I know it's a big ask, but I recommend new people attend (whether our church or a different one) as often as possible for a minimum of 1-2 months...  Sometimes it's hard for our souls to initially hear God because our minds and bodies are just overwhelmed by the "newness" of our surroundings... Each church has its own culture. Open Heart definitely does. It's not usually a quick thing to absorb, understand and discern if it is where God wants you... It can be a process. Don't be afraid to take time. Because it does take time and effort to expand our comfort zone, become accustomed to new people, new sounds, even new rhythms... For instance, Open Heart's worship music style varies during the month with different teams leading. You wouldn't know without being there more than once. So even if you don't plan to be in the next "family photo," but just come to meet new people and grow, I encourage you to come more than once, to stretch and pray for how God would lead your growth in love.


Andrea Biers - November 26th, 2023 at 9:11am

How beautifully written, and my heart cheered all the way through each written word. I have been a christian for over 30 years and have never seen ones vision for a church family expressed so clearly. Congratulations as you move and travel on earth, touching souls one person at a time.

- November 26th, 2023 at 7:20pm

Thank you for taking time to share such kindness, Andrea. Many blessings on your own journey!