Some of you may recall that I was not particularly eager to return to California until it dawned on me that perhaps God was behind this move. So here I am.
Of the four churches I used to attend when here before, two have closed and one no longer felt right. That left the church at Livermore, United Christian Church Livermore (UCCL). God knows I like an option of one, as that way I don’t make the wrong choice!
The first Sunday I went there the congregation numbered 9. The person preaching is actually the pastor of a local church. UCCL had changed the time of their service to 9:00 am from the usual 10:30 am to accommodate her.
The UCCL congregation had been advised that they were too small to be viable. I arrived the week before they had arranged a meeting with the part of this denomination -The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – that deals with churches in transition, which usually means helping them to close. The official title of the organisation is Christian Church Foundation (CCF). I was asked to be present at the meeting.
The Sunday before the meeting (my second Sunday at UCCL) during the service I felt very
strongly that the small congregation should at least put up their Christmas tree. They were so completely defeated that no one had bothered to celebrate the coming of Jesus! I mentioned this to the woman sitting next to me (who has been my ‘prayer partner’ for some years). She agreed and after the service we started putting up the tree. Five of the others attending also stayed behind and decided to put up other decorations as a positive statement. We started to talk together, telling stories and suchlike, and to laugh as we worked.
Starla and I were putting the final touches to the tree when she said words to the effect that she was expecting the Holy Spirit to act and she was just waiting for this to happen. At that moment, four people came into the church. The web site apparently had the old time and they were at the church for the 10:30 service.
Try to imagine what a congregation of 9 feels like when 4 additional people join it. We stopped what we were doing, offered coffee and all sat around a table to chat with our visitors. They were two couples, completely unrelated. The husband of one turned out to be an ordained Disciples of Christ minister newly moved into the area. His work is not as a church minister, but in resilience training with the armed forces. The wife of the other couple said that she was so pleased to see the tree, as the last church they were in had no Christmas decorations, because “they were not mentioned in the Bible”. Starla and I thanked God that we decided to stay behind to decorate the tree.
At the meeting with CCF, those present were asked to voice their feelings and thoughts about the situation. I felt moved to say that I believed that God had brought me back to California for a purpose and that the purpose seemed to involve UCCL. I also said that I firmly felt that there was a spark in UCCL that should not be allowed to go out, and that I did not believe it to be God’s plan to end this witness in Livermore. Everyone agreed, to my surprise, even those who said they were now ‘tired’. It was agreed that nothing more be done until the congregation had had an opportunity to reconsider what they felt God was saying.
Two weeks later, both couples have been back each Sunday. They both say that they ‘felt led’ to UCCL. There were 18 people in the congregation this Sunday. Emily, one of the longtime leaders in the church had asked me last week if I would be prepared to lead a Bible study/prayer group. To my surprise, during this morning’s service, she announced that I would be starting that after the service.
At the meeting, I announced that I would be giving a course on the Holy Spirit, as that was what came to me. We also started praying as a group expecting God to answer us specifically, as in the Old Testament. It is daring to do this, but rewarding. We asked if we should continue as a congregation. The answer was YES!
I know the power of prayer. I believe that God is doing a new thing in Livermore. I believe that you all can be part of that by praying for UCCL, for God to work there (in power if possible, as we really need something special!!) and for the congregation to grow and to spread the Good News in that community.
It would be great to have a spiritual link between our congregations.
Please send any articles for the newsletter to me at [email protected]