Current Series: Close to Home

Our homes are regularly a part of our holiday traditions. But home is more than just an address or a physical structure. To each of us, ‘home’ carries a multitude of meanings, memories and emotions.

And in its broadest sense, home is more than the place we live and all it entails. Home could be any place where we feel safe and cared for – and so do others. It could be any time when we are able to be our truest selves — and so are others. Home, for many, is being at peace personally and collectively. In short, home is where things are as they should be.

We all long for this sense of home. To experience a wholeness within ourselves and with each other. This Advent we’ll be considering what it might look like to move closer to this home. To become people who come home and help others do the same.

 

Upside Down – Current Series

The last two years have turned the world upside down. And while in many ways this disruption has been hard and painful and disorienting, disruption can also create opportunity for us to see things in a new way.

And yet, there is a longing right now to just ‘get back to normal’. To somehow return the world to what it once was. But that simply isn’t possible. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

What if this moment is a moment to survey our upside down world and ask, “how can we rebuild our lives and our communities so that they are truly right side up?” What if instead of going back to the way things were, we forge ahead a new way to live?

Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ is an expansive, wide-reaching collection of teachings that speak to things that deeply matter to our lives right now: anger, true religion, hypocrisy, the place of possessions and money, revenge, and judgement (to name some of the topics covered). Join us as we take in these teachings and ask how they can lead us to turning our upside down world right side up.

Back to the Building

It will have been 78 weeks since we last worshipped in the building! As we look back on that time, we have much to celebrate and be grateful for: watch parties, technology, innovation, flexibility, Garfield Park and on and on.

That said, we’re looking forward to being back in a familiar and meaningful space together.

Our first Sunday back will be September 12. Here are some things you need to know:

  1. We will be meeting at 9:30am!
  2. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will be following the Kent County Health Department’s and CDC’s recommendations. Currently, this means that everyone, regardless of vaccination status or age, will wear a mask whenever in the building. Of course, those under 2 and with medical exemptions are not required to wear a mask.
  3. If you are not comfortable wearing a mask, or are not ready to be back indoors, we invite you to join our livestream on Facebook.
  4. BranchKids PreK-4th grade will resume on 9/12. Kids will start in worship with their families and then be dismissed about mid-way through our time together. Learn more here.
  5. Toddler and Nursery rooms will not be available; however, the balcony has been reconfigured and has space for parents with babies or toddlers to roam, rest and participate in worship.

Upcoming Series

After a year and a half of upheaval and change, we are circling back to the core values we have committed to as a community. Not only do these values help us describe how we will move through the world, but they also paint a picture of the kind of life we believe Jesus lived.

Join us as we consider our identity and sense of call together.

September 12 – Liberty: in a world that longs for black and white and constantly picks sides, we choose liberty.

September 19 – Incarnation: in a world of isolation and disconnection, we choose incarnation.

September 26 – Simplicity: in a world of endless choices and burnout, we choose simplicity.

October 3 –  Partnership: in a world of competition and individualism, we choose partnership.

October 10 – Participation: in a world of consumerism and tribalism, we choose participation.

An Evening of (re)Connection and Vocation

On June 17 we welcome author and professor Winn Collier for an evening on Eugene Peterson and vocation. Through the generosity of a grant, dinner is free, each participant will leave with a copy of Collier’s book and we’re able to provide kid activities after dinner.

Winn recently published the authorized biography of Eugene Peterson (pastor, author and translator of The Message). Dinner begins at 6:00pm and Winn will lead us from 6:30-7:30pm.

Sign up is required. For more details and to register, go to your Church Center app (or click here).

Our conversation on vocation continues throughout the summer July 8 & 22 and August 5 & 19. Details to come.

Worship this Summer

Beginning May 2, we will offer two options for worship on Sunday mornings.

Option 1: Live Stream on Facebook

Every week at 10am we’ll stream worship through our Facebook page.

Option 2: Garfield Park

Beginning May 2, and running through the end of August, we will be gathering in Garfield Park from 10-11am. After considering both the current Covid numbers and restrictions, and the wonderful options the park offers us, we have decided to gather in the park this summer.

If we have cold or rainy weather, worship will be held online that Sunday. We will post any cancellations at the park here, on the website, and on Facebook by 8am Sunday morning.

You can learn more about what BranchKids will look like, where to park and what to expect by checking out this doc:

Summer Handout

Holy Week

We’d be honored to have you join us and extend an invitation to others as we journey through Holy Week.

Thursday, Friday and Sunday’s times of worship can be accessed through our Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/864871555

Sunday’s tailgate will be in person, socially distanced and masked in the Branch building’s parking lot.

  • Thursday – Seder Meal; 6:30-7:15pm

  • Friday – Good Friday worship; 7:00-8pm

  • Easter Tailgate – 8:30-9:30am

  • Easter Worship – 10-11am

Thursday’s Seder Meal – this meal draws on the traditional Jewish Passover, which Jesus shared with his disciples the night of his betrayal. We’ll walk through it together, remembering God’s faithfulness in the deliverance of the Jewish people from Egypt and in the restoration of the world made possible in Christ’s death and resurrection. You can join us in whatever way works for you, but if you’d like to participate fully, grab the ingredients listed on page 1 of this liturgy: Seder Meal.

Friday’s Good Friday Worship – we’ll spend the hour together walking through stations of the cross — major moments in the final hours of Jesus’ life. This time of worship is impactful and deeply meaningful each year. We hope you can join us.

Easter Tailgate – Covid isn’t stopping our annual tradition of celebration, we’ve just changed it slightly. Join us in the parking lot of the building (973 28th St. SE), bring some breakfast (typically we would potluck, but this year each household is bringing their own food) and connect with others. We’ll stay socially distanced and masked.

Easter – 10am – we’ll celebrate the Risen Christ through music, Scripture, video and prayer. We can’t wait. Use our Zoom link (above) to log in.

Christmas Eve

Join us for an evening of music, reflection and candle light.

Worship begins at 7pm — you can log in as early as 6:50 using this link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/864871555

We look forward to seeing you!

Advent – Those Who Dream

Advent: coming, arrival

As we read the stories about Christ’s first coming 2000 years ago, we discover a host of characters who received, discovered, and responded to God’s dreams for the world. In some instances, these dreams were literal, coming while they slept. Other dreams were discovered in the course of everyday life.  Each time, these dreams woke people to God’ arrival, right in their midst.

In Advent, we step into the mystery and awe of God’s dreams and pray they shape our reality too.

  • November 29: Those who dreamkeep awake
  • December 6: Those who dreamprepare the way
  • December 13: Those who dreamsow joy
  • December 20: Those who dreamare not alone

Rest for Your Soul – Series September 6-27

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

It’s not uncommon for folks living in a relentless, quick-paced world like ours to feel tired. But in the last five months, how much more has this been true? We are exhausted. Worn-out.

In our weariness we hear this ancient, consistent invitation: ‘come’ and find what you’ve been looking for all along.

To be clear: rest does not come by just wanting it. We must accept the invitation and be willing to surrender. These are the things we’ll consider together in this series as we lean into Christ’s words and move toward what we so desperately need.

Weekly Reflections on becoming an Anti-Racist

Below are the emails we’ve sent out since George Floyd’s murder and the protests that follow.  Each email has a number of resources to keep us moving towards becoming Anti-Racists.

May 31st

Here’s a video we used in worship as a prayer of lament.

June 9th

Over the last two weeks, large and consistent protests have demanded that we as a country reckon with the racism that is still abundantly present.

You may have felt moved and inspired to do someething. If that is true, let me encourage you to strike while the iron is hot. Don’t let this moment pass without taking whatever the next step is for you. Not sure what to do?

Here are two excellent options:

  1. TONIGHT, 8:30PM – SaraJane and Micah Herrboldt are welcoming anyone interested in learning how to become an anti-racist to a Zoom call. You don’t have to make a long term commitment in order to check it out tonight. Simply come, here their plans for the coming weeks and decide if it’s right for you. The Zoom info, and a  letter from SaraJane and Micah can be found here.
  2. I came across this excellent resource that can help you find the right resource for your growth. Look at the left hand column. Where do you think you are on the journey (be honest :). Each step has excellent resource suggestions and steps for you to take.

Onward, friends. Let’s not miss this moment.

Peace- Chris

June 11th

Friends,
I used to think that racism wasn’t my issue. It was something for others to try to tackle. But over the last three years I’ve come to realize that engaging racism is one choice we all must make.
That said (and before you think I’ve gone overboard), let me say this: how you face and respond to racism may look differently than it does for me. In other words, not everyone must quit their job to become a full-time activist. There are many choices for how we engage this important work. What is important is that we engage.
Here are a couple of simple, accessible possibilities:
1. Educate: through this Friday, IVP is giving away one of its many e-books on racism and justice to each of its customers. Head here and use promo code Just20
2. Diversify: who you are listening to on this topic matters — and listening to people of color really matters. Below is a list of voices that will encourage, challenge, and diversify your social media intake. One note: listen to these voices with an abundance of humility. Instead of becoming defensive, let their words sit with and teach you.
Onward, friends.
Peace-
Chris
Instagram:

@wokebrownfem, @nowhitesaviours, @theimtiredproject, @rachel.cargle, @advancementproject, @britthawthorne, @indyamoore, @wearyourvoice, @ckyourprivilege, @alokvmenon, @theunapologeticallybrownseries, @austinchanning, @theconsciouskid, @antiracismctr, @_nickyflash_, @heyqueenyoucute

Twitter:

@clintsmithIII, @keeangayamahtta, @DrIbram, @MsPackyetti, @JBouie, @thearmchaircom, @RevJacquiLewis @drchanequa, @ava, @YNPierce, @esglaude, @jemelehill, @_nickyflash_,@nhannahjones

June 19th

Branch family –
Time has been playing tricks on us in this pandemic – moving both slowly and quickly at the same time. I was stunned today to realize that it’s been nearly a month (a month!) since George Floyd’s murder, three months since Breonna Taylor lost her life and four months since Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and killed.
 
If you are white — and you check in with yourself — you may find that you are growing fatigued by all that has been going on. You’re not alone. We are in a pivot point in history and it is exhausting.
 
So how do we stay engaged? (and we must stay engaged if anything is to change).
 
1. We have to take care of ourselves.
Each of us must be incredibly intentional to do those things that refill our tanks and keep us centered on Christ. The pursuit of justice takes persistent strength and resolve. So how are you caring for yourself? What could you do, even this weekend, to become recentered and restored?
 
2. Take the next step (not the next 10….just the nextstep)
We’re all in different places and so your next step might not look like mine. But here are a few ideas that I hope may be helpful this Juneteenth.
  • We cannot move into a new future without understanding our past. Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales and co-host (with Skye Jethani) of the Holy Post Podcast, released a helpful history of race that will help you understand how we got to where we are today. It’s 17 minutes, but stick with it till the end.
  • As white folks, we often get hung up on the anger and rage demonstrated by our black brothers and sisters. Esau McCaulley, assistant professor at Wheaton College, writes about this and places it within a biblical framework.
  • I’ve seen many African Americans encourage us to not just read books about racism (which is good and important!), but to also read things about the life, vitality and beauty of our black brothers and sisters. To be frank, this is fairly new territory for me. But here are two autobiographies I read last summer.
    • Howard Thurman has been such a gift to me. His autobiography is excellent, as is his best known work, Jesus and the Disinherited.
    • Ida B. Wells is one of the fiercest, most courageous people I’ve ever encountered. Her autobiography is hard to find right now, but put it on your list.
Grateful to be on this journey with you.
Onward, friends.
Peace-
Chris

Becoming an Anti-Racist

Below is a letter from SaraJane and Micah, inviting anyone to enter into a conversation around how white people can become anti-racists: people who are actively working against racism in their own lives and in our world.
Dear friends and family,
What a time we find ourselves in.
Over the past month, we have sat with our children more times than we would like to, sharing with them the news of yet another life taken far too soon due to racism and injustice. As we move through these times, we have appreciated those of you who have reached out, checked in, taken action, and spoken up. For those who are unsure of how to take the first step, you are not alone in those feelings. It can be overwhelming to take that first step, to enter into discomfort, to not remain stuck in not knowing.
Ibram X Kendi wrote “Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” 
We’d love to support you in doing this important work. Please consider refraining from asking Black people to do the educating for you. It is not their responsibility to do that heavy lifting, especially as they move through these days full of fear and trauma. Listen to their words, but save the questions for white people who are doing the work.
If you know how you learn best, what you want to dive into, and feel like doing the work independently, feel free to reach out and we will try to point you in the right direction to explore the multitude of resources available.
However, if you are curious about doing this work with a group of individuals, we invite you to join us. This group will be for white people who are ready to know better so they can do better. Although the group will be white participants, it will center the voices and experiences of people of color.  Together we will practice awareness, listen, learn, acknowledge, and take action.
This is the good, important, hard work that we must do, that we are asking you to do. For the sake of our three beautiful children and all those like them. If you are willing to be on this journey, please join us Tuesday, June 9th at 8:30pm, EST and we will share more with you about what our time together will look like.
Meeting Info via Zoom:

Topic: Becoming Antiracist

Time: Jun 9, 2020 08:30 PM America/Detroit

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88564904384?pwd=SFhEbzl2YTkxVUtpdUF5VVh5ZTh5Zz09

Meeting ID: 885 6490 4384

Password: begin

We hope to have you join us so together we can build a better tomorrow.

Liminal :: Stories of the In-Between

We’ve all been there. In fact, we’re there right now.

Liminal spaces are in-between spaces. They are seasons in which we find ourselves between one reality that has ended and another that has not yet begun. Covid-19 has caused life as we knew it to end. The world is simply not, nor will it be, the same as it was.

And because of that unknown, liminal spaces are incredibly disorienting. You feel it, don’t you? The change. The uncertainty. So much has shifted.

And…liminal spaces hold a unique opportunity. As we hover between what was and what will be, the questions that really matter seem to rise to the surface.

We’re going to take a look at some biblical stories in which people (and communities) had to walk through a liminal space. What might their story have to tell us about our own?

We hope you’ll join us.

Covid-19 Updates

Sunday mornings: two options

Zoom

Every week at 10am we’ll continue to use Zoom in the weeks and months ahead. Here’s the link (it is the same link every week): https://zoom.us/j/864871555

Option: Sunday Morning Watch Parties

  • With winter bearing down, watch parties are on hold for now; however, if we get a warm weekend in the coming months — and we are holding hope we will! — we’ll offer watch parties on those Sundays. To stay informed on opportunities, please email teresa@thebranchonline.org and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.
  • What is a watch party?
    • 2 or 3 households meeting together to participate in worship together over Zoom. 
    • Groups meet outdoors in someone’s backyard, garage or deck, do not share supplies and follow the 6 feet of separation guideline. 
    • We provide individually packaged communion supplies.

What can you expect on Sunday on Zoom?

  • Our team will lead a time of prayer, reflection and music. We’ll also consider what the Scriptures have to say to us as we navigate this new world.
  • We’ll leverage technology to offer opportunities to engage and interact throughout the morning.
  • While we would love for people to turn on their cameras, it is certainly not required. You can simply log into Zoom and keep your camera off. You’ll still be able to hear and see everything that our team will be leading.
  • Need help with Zoom? Check out a few tips here by downloading the file.

BranchKids

Because of current guidelines we are not currently able to offer in-person ministry for our kids. However, starting September 13, we invite preschool and gradeschool age kids to join us on Zoom at 9:45am for fifteen minutes of fun, teaching and connection (use the Sunday Zoom link above).

BranchStudents

BranchStudents met throughout the fall and early winter and have now taken a break during the holidays. We are planning to continue meeting again in January. We will have more details what that looks like in late December. Updates will be provided on our Facebook page and by email (our FB page can be found by searching “BranchStudents” and requesting to join).

The Gospel of Mark

For the first 16 weeks of 2020 (January to Easter) we’re going to walk through the Gospel of Mark taking one chapter a week.

Our hope and desire is simple: to purposefully and thoughtfully reflect on the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth so that our lives may more reflect his.

We invite you to join us on Sundays and read along with us. Each week we’ll post a simple reading guide here that you can use on your own.


Advent Yoga

This season we are about to enter is busy. Like, really insanely busy.

You’re invited to take an hour to step away from it all.
An hour to rest, breathe, connect.

Everyone is welcome – regardless of their level of experience with yoga.

The class meets at the Branch building at 7:30pm starting 12/1 and meeting 12/8 and 12/15 at the same time.

A suggested donation of $10 for each class is asked; however, money should not stop you from coming. If you believe this time would be a gift to you, please come.

December Potluck!

As is our tradition, the first Sunday of the month is a chance to get together, connect, and enjoy some good food.

This time, we’ll be having a good ol’ fashioned potluck so bring a dish to pass. We’ll provide water and place settings.

We’ll start right after worship is concluded and wrap up around noon. Hope to see you there!

You can sign up using the Church Center app or by emailing chris@thebranchonline.org

The Two Halves of Life

A number of years ago my wife and I spent some time in Las Vegas. The city was remarkable. But we also knew we wanted to get to the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had ever been. So we got in our rental car and made a long day trip. After about four hours we had reached the first lookout point on the far western edge. It was beautiful.

Now…imagine that we didn’t go any further. Imagine that we stopped at the first lookout point got out, snapped a few pics and then headed home. You’d think we were nuts.

The Grand Canyon can’t be taken in from one lookout point. There’s so much more to experience and see.

Now, let’s be clear. Getting to the Grand Canyon itself is important, and it takes a lot of time and effort. But the journey doesn’t end there.

The same is true in life. We spend a lot of time and effort traveling the first half of life, which is focused on the pursuit of identity, importance and security. And those things are important. Very important. But they are not the end.

There is an entire second half of life to live. And yet, too many of us stay put.

Maybe we’re afraid of what the rest of the journey might be like. Maybe we didn’t even know there was more to experience. Maybe we don’t know how to get started.

That’s why we hope you’ll join us for seven weeks as we consider the two halves of life. Together we’ll look at the journey the Scriptures show us is possible – an adventure we’re all meant to live.

GROW

Who are you becoming?

Often our growth is hard to see. We race through life not realizing that every day we are becoming a certain kind of person.
Incredibly, we have a choice about how we become this certain kind of person. We can either be passive in our formation – letting whatever comes along shape us. Or, we can intentionally join in the work of God’s Spirit to become a specific someone. This is God’s desire; that we would become our true self — our fullest self — a unique reflection of Christ.

To be sure, the journey of ‘becoming’ is life-long; however, the question we are inviting you to ask is this: what can I do in this current season to be intentional about my transformation?

Below are four modules (focused times of reflection and learning) we hope will help each of us experience movement in our spiritual journey.

The Sacred Call to Self Discovery
Six weeks: week of September 22 through week of October 27;
(This group will be offered again Feb 16 — March 22)

Sign up by emailing teresa@thebranchonline.org

Knowing yourself is absolutely critical to an abundant life. Over six weeks you’ll consider your true and false self, apply the Enneagram and reflect on your own story to better understand who you are.

Creating a Rule of Life (the good kind of rule)
Six weeks: weeks of Nov. 7 — Dec. 8;
break for the holidays; then, Jan. 12 — Jan. 26

We don’t become who we are by accident. Instead, it is the rhythms and practices of our lives that shape us. Over six weeks you’ll discern what particular rhythms and practices fit you and are needed in this season of your life.

Creating a Rule of Life (the good kind of rule)
Six weeks: weeks of Nov. 7 — Dec. 8;
break for the holidays; then, Jan. 12 — Jan. 26

We don’t become who we are by accident. Instead, it is the rhythms and practices of our lives that shape us. Over six weeks you’ll discern what particular rhythms and practices fit you and are needed in this season of your life.

Living on Purpose
Four weeks: weeks of April 19 — May 10

The best classroom for learning is life itself. Together, we’ll reframe our daily activities and responsibilities so that we might see them as opportunities ripe for change — both ours and the world’s.

FAQ

When will these groups meet?
It may be different for each module. We’ll reassess what days and times work best as we move throughout the year. Check the ChurchCenter app or sign up sheets on Sunday for details.

Will there be work (reading, writing, reflection) to do in between each meeting?
Yes. To make our time together as fruitful as possible, we will be asking participants to do limited reading (a chapter or article) or engage in a specific reflection.

Do I need to attend all of the weeks of each module?
Yes. Each week’s content will build on the next. Therefore, we ask those who sign up to commit to all six or four weeks of the module.

Do I have to attend these four modules in a particular order?
Yes and No. 🙂 While we do strongly recommend taking The Sacred Call to Self Discovery module first, there is not an order that these must be completed in. Choose what you think will be most helpful.

Will these only be offered in 2019-2020?
We plan to offer these four modules again in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, giving everyone time to participate in all four of them.

Is there a cost?
Most modules will have little to no cost. If there is cost, the Branch can help to cover those costs if needed.

Sign-up

In the weeks leading up to each module, use the ChurchCenter app to register or sign up on Sunday mornings.

Questions?

Email teresa@thebranchonline.org or chris@thebranchonline.org

An introduction to steps we are taking to help each other GROW.

Hurrican Dorian assistance

Hurricane Dorian was a massive storm. Its power was felt for two long weeks. From the severe destruction on the islands of the Bahamas to the wind, rain, and flooding in parts of the southeast US still actively recovering from previous storms, this storm’s impact will be felt for years to come. Hurricane Dorian left people without power, without food, and huge numbers of people without homes. How can we respond?

RCA Global Mission (the crisis response arm of our denomination) is working with our partners at World Renew Disaster Response Services to help those most affected in both the Bahamas and here in the US. Both of these organizations will be a part of responding to the immediate needs, but also will be in the region for months, if not years, helping to rebuild.

You can donate by clicking here.