Current Series: Seeking, Honest Questions For Deeper Faith

This Lent, may you engage in the spiritual practice of seeking—by asking questions, and by staying curious, open, and nimble.
We hope you will soften your assumptions and expand your perspectives. We pray that these questions will create a safe space to explore—to be drawn more deeply into the fullness of life, into the heart of God.

March 5 – Who Will You Listen To?

March 12 – Group Sunday

March 19 – How Do We Begin Again?

March 26 – Group Sunday

April 2 – Palm Sunday::Where Are You Headed?

April 9 – Easter::Who Are You Looking For?

April 16 – Group Sunday

April 23 – Can These Bones Live?

April 30 – Agape Feast

May  7 – Who Sinned?

May 14 – Group Sunday

May 21 – Will You Give Me A Drink?

Group Sundays (Feb-May 2023)

Sign up for a Group here.

Last fall, we felt that it was time to try something different. Not for the sake of being different, but because we wondered if the way in which we gathered didn’t need to shift given all that has happened in the world and in our lives the last two years.

The result was an every other week rotation between ‘normal’ Sundays and ‘group’ Sundays.

Normal Sundays were, well, normal in the sense that our gathering on those weeks looked a lot like it had previously.

Our ‘group’ Sundays began with all of us together for a quick time of connection and then we would head to the group of our choice. Each group centered around a wide range of topics and activities (we tried a bunch of things: Ultimate Frisbee, a reflective walking group, a group that made an art installation for Advent, a group that practiced silence as a spiritual discipline, and many more). What we found is that Group Sundays gave people more opportunity to connect relationally, try out a new skill or idea and look for God’s presence in what might seem like everyday, ‘non-spiritual’ activities.

We’re excited to be trying this again in the coming months.

Below is the schedule as well as videos describing the opportunities for the weeks leading up to Easter.

Sign up for a Group here.

  • February 26: Group Sunday
  • March 5: Worship Gathering
  • March 12: Group Sunday
  • March 19: Worship Gathering
  • March 26: Group Sunday
  • April 2: Worship Gathering (Palm Sunday)
  • April 9: Worship Gathering (Easter)
  • April 16: Group Sunday
  • April 30: 5th Sunday Agape Feast
  • May 7: Worship Gathering
  • May 14: Group Sunday
  • May 21: Worship Gathering

 

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday – February 22 – 7:00pm

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday – an evening of reflection, prayer and Scripture where we set our intention for the 40 days leading to Easter.

With the potential for inclement weather on Wednesday, we may choose to move our gathering to Zoom. We will keep everyone updated on our Facebook page and through email.

Sabbath

As we begin a new year, our conversation on Sundays will center around an ancient practice and rhythm of rest called Sabbath — a practice we’re pretty sure most of us are unfamiliar with, but need nonetheless.

That said, this conversation is not first and foremost about developing a 24-hour period free of any work. That may be a very good goal, but given the pace of most of our lives it is likely not a realistic target to immediately aim for.

Instead, we’re asking two questions: what is the Sabbath meant to teach us about things like time, work, and relationships, and what are steps we can take right now to move our rhythms and patterns into alignment with what God teaches us through the Sabbath.

We look forward to the conversation together.

Upcoming Gatherings

Here’s our holiday schedule as we celebrate Christmas and welcome in the New Year!

Christmas Eve – 5-6pm

Update 12/24 1:00pm: please note, we are still meeting in person tonight, but because of conditions encourage people to choose what is best for their circumstances. We will be streaming on YouTube as well. We look forward to being together!

Christmas Day – we will not be gathering

New Year’s Day – Brunch @ 10am! Bring something to pass and enjoy a fun (and delicious) start to the new year.

Sundays This Fall – GROUP Description Videos

For all the information about GROUP Sundays (starting 9/18/22), click here.

For a description of each GROUP that will meet on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, check out these videos.

 

UPDATE: Sundays This Fall

In this brief podcast we share the ‘why’ behind we’re making some changes this fall and lay out some of the details.

You can find more info here.

Sundays this Fall

It is an enormous understatement to say that a lot has changed in the last few years. There is not an area of our culture (including religion and the Church) that is not in turmoil or undergoing a significant shift. 

With so much upheaval, it is understandable that we might want to try and keep things the way they’ve always been, but this is ultimately unhelpful (and impossible). 

What if instead of maintaining the status quo, we dared to dream — to experiment — to risk? What if we leveraged this moment to help us see in new ways and respond with fresh expressions of faith? What if this became a time of discovery and growth?

Sundays this fall we will be trying some new patterns and rhythms that we hope will meet us in this particular moment of time and help us connect and grow. We’re sure there will be some bumps in the road. We won’t get everything right. But we do trust that God will be with us and will work through our time together to transform our lives and world.

For all the details in our brochure, click here! You can also listen to a short podcast with lots of info here. You can also watch very short videos here that describe each GROUP we are offering.

We would love to have an idea of how many people to expect in each group. You can help by signing up here!

What is God Like? [Current Series]

What is God Like?

That’s a very big question, one that people from places all around the world have wondered about since the beginning of time.

So begins the children’s book, What is God Like, by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner. From there, the authors describe 16 different metaphors (similes, technically) that tell us something about God’s character.

This summer, we’re going to examine some of those metaphors. And while they are simple enough to make a children’s book, they are also deep and profound enough to bring great meaning to everyone.

Save the date for CREATE 2023!!!!

Join us June 20-22 from 6:30-8:30 pm for 3 nights of creativity and fun! Thursday night will end with an Open House for parents and friends to see what the kids have been up to all week, as well as an opportunity to join in the creative fun!

CREATE is an art camp for kids entering K-8th grade. Each child chooses one age-appropriate class to attend for those 3 evenings. They spend their time creating, getting to know one another and having fun. We love coming alongside kids as they tap into their own unique creativity – even when they don’t even know that creativity exists! Scroll down for the list of classes (class descriptions coming soon).

For the latest updates, be sure to like our facebook page (facebook.com/CreateGR).

Registration will open in early May. Be sure to watch our facebook page for updates!

Class Options for Grades K-1:

EXPLORING TREES 

NAILED IT! (Baking Challenge)

TBA

 

Class Options for Grades 2-4:

CREATE WITH COLOR 

HYDRO DIPPING

CROCHET/SPINNING

 

Class Options for Grades 5-8:

EMBROIDERY 

HOW TO MAKE A ZINE

PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY  If you love portrait photography, learn multiple ways to light a portrait image to create a dramatic effect. Gear needed: Digital camera with removable media (SD Card, Compact Flash, etc).  DSLR preferred.

Summer at the Branch – 2022

Summer Sunday Gatherings

We’re headed back to Garfield Park for most Sundays this summer (the last Sunday of each month we’ll meet at the building)!

Bring a chair to sit in. Our BranchKids program will be available each Sunday we’re in the park (except for July 3).

We will continue to stream on YouTube regardless of location.

Here is our summer schedule:

  • May 29, June 5, 12 and 19 @ Garfield Park pavilion. Click here for a map.
  • July 3, 10, 17 @ Garfield Park pavilion
    • July 24 and July 31 @ the building
  • August 7, 14 and 21 @ Garfield Park pavilion
    • August 28 @ the building
  • September 4 @ Garfield Park pavilion

 

2nd Sunday Brunch

June, July and August
After our gathering at the park, we’ll dive into some good food.
Sign up for something to bring. We’ll cover place settings.

CREATE

Evenings of July 11-13
Partner with us to serve kids in grades K-8 by creating spaces to
explore, discover, and stretch their God-given creativity. Be sure to like our Facebook page (facebook.com/CreateGR) for the most up-to-date information.

Partner Gathering

July 27, 6-8pm
After a two year hiatus, we’re gathering all Partners — those who are currently one and those who might be interested (a Partner makes an explicit decision to join us in our mission of renewal).

What are you up to? Share it with others! 

Heading to the beach? Taking a bike ride? Grabbing ice cream?
Share it in the GroupMe app. Join our group on the app (email teresa@thebranchonline.org) and you’ll get alerted every time someone is planning something fun and social.

Updated Covid Policies

In the last few weeks, government agencies have revised their Covid guidelines. We have also seen a steep decline of cases and ICU hospitalizations in Kent County. Therefore, we too are adjusting our policies beginning this Sunday, March 13.

  • In rooms with good ventilation and air filtration, masks will be optional.
    • This includes the sanctuary and Grade School room.
    • The sanctuary has recently installed continuous ionization filters (the same used in schools and healthcare facilities), has fans circulating the air and participants are spaced apart while seated.
    • The Grade School Room also has continuous ionization filters and children are spaced apart while seated.
  • In all other areas we will continue to ask people to wear masks (except those under 2 or with a medical exemption).
    This includes bathrooms, hallways, the cafe and entry ways.
  • Because vaccinations are not yet available to 4 and 5 year olds, we will continue to require all those in our Preschool Room to wear a mask while in that room.
    • We will reevaluate this policy once vaccinations become available.
  • We will also be engaging in a conversation with parents who have children in our Nursery and Toddler Rooms to get their input on how and when we might reopen this room. Until it reopens, little ones are welcome to roam and run in the sanctuary or the balcony, as well as join us at other times we gather (like the groups meeting after worship this week). Seeing (and hearing) them gives us joy.

We are all hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. And yet, the last two years have required us to admit that the future is wildly unpredictable. Which is to say, our policies will almost certainly change again. And while we hope that those changes will only bring us closer to pre-pandemic routines, we will continue to evaluate and adapt our policies based health department guidelines.

WholeHearted – A Lenten Series

In the Scriptures, the word “heart” is spoken of hundreds of times. And while it is a word used to describe a number of aspects of the human life, it always points inward. As one biblical dictionary puts it,

the heart is the fountain and seat of our emotions, thoughts, passions, ambitions and endeavors.

The heart is a word that captures our inner life and the deepest aspects of who we are. And yet, to live with a whole heart — to be fully alive and present and healthy — can seem elusive. We so often feel distracted and divided, pulled in countless directions. We know what it is to have our heart wounded – torn in a million pieces by the difficulties of living on this earth.

And all of that distraction and pain and pull may entice us to disengage and bury what we may be feeling, but…

Lent is a bold determination to do exactly the opposite.

During the 40 days of Lent, we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who for 40 days faced the most challenging questions and temptations head on. Lent is a time to courageously go deeper — to look inward —  to gather with others and find the strength tend to our heart.

We invite you on that journey.

Ash Wednesday

Join us for Ash Wednesday
12:00-12:30pm OR 7:30-8:00pm

At the building or on YouTube

As we begin Lent, we are setting aside space to ask, “What would it mean for me to live wholeheartedly?”

This 30 minute gathering is a chance to pause, breathe and set our intention for the 40 days ahead.

We look forward to having you join us.

New Series: Mapping Our Future

If you’re joining us online on February 13, 20 or 27,

please use this Zoom link (click here) and read the description below.

Making a map requires at least two points: where you are and where you intend to go. With all that has happened in the last two+ years, we’re taking the month of February to discern together where we find ourselves today, and where we hope to be in the future.

February 6: Over the last three years, we have focused on three areas: Embrace, Grow and Contribute (or Participate). These areas remain relevant and important, but how we live them out might look different given all that has changed in the world and in our own lives. We’ll reflect on John 4 and consider where we currently find ourselves, both as individuals and families, but also as a community of faith.

February 13, 20 and 27: These three gatherings will look different than a typical Sunday morning as we plan to use most of our time for reflection and discussion. Each week we will go in depth on one of the three areas (Embrace, Grow and Contribute), spending time in small groups brainstorming and then coming together as a large group to process.

Whether you have been at The Branch for years, or are new, we deeply hope that you will join the conversation and help us chart a course together. Your input and perspective is important and needed.

Back to the Building

With the latest numbers improving and fewer isolations and positive cases within the Branch community, worship this Sunday (2.6.22) will be available both in-person at the building and online on YouTube (please note the change; here is a link).

Here are a few reminders about Sunday:

  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. 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 YouTube page.
  4. BranchKids PreK-4th grade will resume on 2/6/22. 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.

Important note: Sunday, January 30th!

On Sunday, January 30th, we will be meeting entirely online, using Zoom (same time: 9:30am).

 

Here is the link for Sunday: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85627759920

 

We’ve made this decision based on four factors:

  • Our local health care system is severely strained, and positivity rates are at an all-time high.
  • A growing number of people in our own community have contracted Covid or are in quarantine.
  • Many at the Branch were already planning on participating in worship online this week because of these circumstances.
  • While it may not be preferred, we now have a lot of experience online and know it can be a meaningful way to connect and be encouraged.

We will evaluate everything again next week and make a decision about that Sunday (the 30th) then.

As always, we are immensely impressed by and grateful for the flexibility, kindness and understanding this community demonstrates. We’ll see you all online on Sunday!

Sunday, December 26th!

We have decided to not gather on Sunday, December 26th, but instead use that time in other ways that might connect us to God’s love and each other. We have a beautiful digital liturgy we can share with you (created by Sanctified Art). To get a digital copy, simply email chris@thebranchonline.org. This liturgy could be used by an individual or family.

And/or, we encourage you to do something that will remind you of God’s love for you. How do you best connect with God? What easily brings joy? What puts your mind and heart at peace? Whatever it may be, may you “be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 The Message)

Christmas Eve

Our tradition of gathering on Christmas Eve continues this year in person and online.

Join us at our building (973 28th St. SE) or on our Facebook page at 5pm. Our hour long gathering will include music, singing, a retelling of the Christmas story and we will end by lighting candles together. All ages are encouraged to join us and participate.

Please note: masks are required at all times when in the building.

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.