Ignatian Spirituality is a spirituality of action: to labor with Christ, bringing peace on earth. Once a person responds to the call, the Christ-follower is invited to pray to come to know God intimately and experience God’s presence in all daily life. One Ignatian prayer practice is the Daily Examen—a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day to notice God’s presence and receive fresh guidance.
Last month, as our Council was concluding the year’s business, we did an Annual Examen—our spiritual review of the presence and movement of God in the life of our church. Here is a written review of that conversation:
We maintained our enthusiasm throughout the pandemic. Whether meeting online, on the lawn when it was 90 degrees with forest fires 10 miles away, or in the parking lot when it was below zero for Valfest, or donating generously to a church which was physically unable to run programs as usual, we had ZEAL. Our tithes and offerings funded children’s education, camps, youth events, addiction recovery, performing arts, teaching, counseling, hospital visitation, community festivals, and community service. In the pandemic a harsh change of life was inflicted upon us, and Crossroads’ peacemakers didn’t complain. Instead, we accepted reality, protected our health, and put our neighbor’s-health first. We gathered however it was provided and gave however we could give.
Our church was resilient, and that may be the best attribute a group could have. Our Council didn’t need to have any grim financial conversations about painful reductions, because the church maintained her enthusiasm. We are resilient.
And now we’re sensing fresh energy. You’re excited to engage in whatever comes next. Question: How can you be fresh after schooling your kids, wearing these masks, zooming your lights out, and arguing with friends and relatives about conspiracy theories for more than 18 months?! The volunteer rally last month is a good example—over 100 volunteers are energized to build new teams and take on the next adventure with fresh eyes. Gregg Piburn has been using the phrase: Explorers see with fresh eyes. We see our church as a group of explorers—going new places and thus seeing new things.
During this gloomy year, the church hosted community activities. We lived out our claim that HOPE IS here, and life is FUN! Remember when the event staff at Valfest told us we could sit in our cars since it was zero degrees outside? It seems most of you either didn’t get the memo or chose to defy it. Hundreds of volunteers kept warm outdoors by singing, dancing, and waving our guests through a maze of living Valentines. This year you proved you ARE FUN. You proved that nothing will stop us from being fun and sharing fun.
The KIDS Team worked their bottoms off getting kids back into our spaces. A new Disability Inclusion Ministry relaunched and grew. Even during the “stay at home orders,” a team created the KidsCast and your kids and families partook online. Staff and volunteers delivered kits of craft supplies and treats every week, for months, so that in-person or online, everyone was engaged. Then as soon as it was humanly possible to be safe, the team schemed the CK Groups concept (pods on campus). Soon many families braved the indoor facility, all masked up, to partake again in person.
Students practiced COVID safety and made it a priority to gather on Thursdays—distancing, mask wearing. The effort was Worth It! And now, there is a vibrant community of students and volunteers who built something of lasting value: true community.
Creativity: We’re all aware of the excellent performing arts and speaking/teaching of Crossroads. Our church started with a bang in 1996 because of excellence in music and speaking. So, true to form, all through the pandemic darkness we had creative music videos and excellent talks, delivered with technological excellence. And! We must name financial creativity. This church family provided regular financial faithfulness plus some big financial gifts that kept us financially healthy. 2021-22 is going to be another ministry year of maintaining and growing this culture of generosity.
COVID Safety: We had no outbreaks! There were a couple situations where someone who had been onsite tested positive. In each situation, distancing and mask wearing had been in practiced and the need for contacts to quarantine was very minimal. We were blown away by the care and competency of everyone involved.
Your Beliefs and Values: This was a year of living into our values when tested. The world entered a new and heightened phase of racial reckoning. Policing in America went under brutal scrutiny. The pandemic itself brought on a clash in religious value systems nation-wide. The presidential election process included insurrection at the capitol in Washington D.C.. All these are matters of grave public concern more importantly: they concern the gospel. We made them our concern in our praying, our preaching and our messaging on social media. We took hits from church people who hold to different beliefs and values. But here we stand.
And where we stand is for Love of God and Love of neighbor. We hosted the memorial service for Alex Domina, a Crossroads member who died from bullet wounds sustained in a police shooting in his backyard during a mental health incident. Mayor Jackie Marsh was in attendance and heard Ryan Howell’s talk at the service and asked him to share some of that wisdom at the City Council meeting a few days later. He did. You could have heard a pin drop in the City Council Chamber as Ryan simply shared the gospel as taught in the story of the Good Samaritan—and that the essence of true life is found is loving God and loving our neighbors.
In the minds of our council, these are the themes of our life together in 2020-21. Thank you for being a part of the Crossroads Family of peacemakers.
Katie Martinez for the Crossroads Council