Farewell to C William “Bill” Nichols

At the hour of this post, one of the most loved preachers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Rev. Dr. C. William “Bill” Nichols is being remembered by colleagues, congregants, community leaders and family. A gifted storyteller, writer, leader and servant of Christ’s church, Bill inspired many of us with his amazing memory, his talented delivery and his welcoming spiritual presence. As the community of faith gathers to sing his favorite hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, I thought I’d share my own short tribute to the Preacher’s preacher.

I met Bill Nichols for the first time as a student at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO where Bill had studied years before. I was a very young ministry student in awe of the recently called Interim General Minister & President who was on campus to receive an honor at one of our seasonal convocations. Pictured in the blurry photograph here, I was privileged to meet in a small group conversation with Bill who listened to me as if I mattered, encouraged my journey in faith and ministry, and gave me hope for the future of the wider church.

I saw Bill again at the General Assembly in St. Louis as a college graduate heading for seminary. He remembered my name and was encouraging as usual. I had no idea our paths would cross again five years later when I was called to serve the congregation Bill served for many years. I will always remember my first opportunity to preach in the beautiful, English-Gothic sanctuary of Central Christian Church, Decatur, IL. Standing in the pulpit, I looked just two rows before me to see Bill and Claudine Nichols, Senior Minister Emeritus now, retired and smiling, ready for a word. Just months out of seminary, I was a bit nervous to say the least to preach to the preacher of preachers listening just feet away. Bill was most gracious in the receiving line after the service, “Thank you, preacher.”

I was privileged to serve Bill and his family as one of their ministers and even more so to be ministered to by such an inspiring witness for Disciples of Christ. God’s welcome be yours, Bill and grace and peace be with the Nichols family!

Here’s a link to Teresa Churchill’s blog post about Bill.

 

Beginning My Lenten Journey

Today is Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Pancake supper night in many homes and churches as Christians prepare for the leaner days of Lent. Using up the household fat and indulging in fattening foods such as Packzies and King Cakes and the like has been the tradition of this day. The revelries of this day and night mark the beginning of the season of ashes and penitence, observing spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting and alms giving. For forty days, not counting Sundays, we journey through the wilderness of Lent filled with all the temptations and distractions a 21st Century world may throw our way. 

Many folks will give something up, a favorite food, lunch out once a week, video games, an hour or two of television per week, or any activity that would be missed enough to make the desire for it real. A form of fasting, giving up something may be powerful for some and in many cases giving of oneself is even more powerful, giving to charity, volunteering for a community good, beginning a Bible Study or simply adding prayer into your daily routine.

This year, I am giving up negativity for lent and giving positiveness an even greater role in my life. I’m beginning a Negativity Fast. Less unkind, critical or judgmental words coming from my mouth is the goal for my Lenten Discipline. More hope, more understanding, more listening, more caring, more mercy, more encouragement for those I come into contact with every day. Before you think this will be easy, I ask you to kindly remember this is an election year.

I want to invite you to join me in this fast of negativity. Whatever is in your past, be it 25yrs ago or 25minutes ago. Leave it there and fill your future with hope, with God’s unconditional acceptance of you, with peace knowing that the past does not define the future. God has a future filled with blessing and all we have to do to make it so is choose to live as those who know the Good News of Jesus. Prayer will help us. Morning, Noon and night pray for God’s joy to guide your thoughts, your decisions, and your words.

Whatever “fasting” you choose, whatever act of confession/forgiveness you choose, whatever prayers you choose for your Lenten journey, I pray you have a meaningful Lent and you are drawn closer to God each day.

Peace & Joy,  Robert

 

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Worship & Hospitality

Worship attendance has been declining for about 40 years or so in mainline congregations (i.e. Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran & Disciples) and is now declining in Evangelical congregations (Independent Christian, some Mega churches) over the last decade as well. There have been lots of studies on what is causing this and suggestions include the following, according to David Lose:

(1) Attending church isn’t a cultural given anymore and there are a whole lot more options on how you might profitably spend your Sunday morning. (2) Many church-goers haven’t found the Christian story a particularly helpful lens through which to view and make sense of their lives.

So, according to research we are experiencing a shift from an “age of duty” where we do what we do because we believe it is what we are supposed to do, to an “age of discretion” where we do what we do because we believe it is worth doing, or it will bring us some kind of good, value or profit. There is no “sacred hour” for worship anymore. Mourn that fact if you wish, but don’t dwell in your sorrow for days gone by. The gospel call is clear for those who place their trust in the Lord: go, make disciples! Jesus never commanded us to build expensive buildings and fill them with entertained worshippers at 10 on Sunday. He simply said, go!

Hospitality is a key for growing churches. First, we receive the radical hospitality of God who welcomes each and all into God’s holy presence despite our imperfections. Second, the welcoming hospitality we share with one another anytime we gather in Christ’s name. And third, the inviting hospitality we practice with folks who are guests each week and with our family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, classmates, etc. May we hear the call of Jesus and share God’s gift of hospitality, daily.

Peace & Joy!
Rev. Robert Bushey, Jr.

Using Words Carefully & Thoughtfully

The mild winter days we have been enjoying lately may confuse our senses such that we begin prematurely thinking about spring like activities. I for one have been busy with household tasks usually reserved for warmer seasons, like cleaning out the garage. Many have enjoyed the warm sunny days whatever the cause, ocean currents, global temperature increases, prayer, or the good old almanac!

The weird weather makes the shorter days bearable. For the past several weeks we have reflected on themes of Light and Darkness as we heeded the words of Isaiah and heralded the coming of the Light of the World. As we continue to celebrate God’s gift of light revealed in Jesus through the season of Epiphany, I invite you to pause with me for a moment and ponder the power-filled words “light” and “dark.” Light is associated in western culture with all things “good.” Light purifies, shows the way, keeps us safe, grants us vision, and reveals the truth. Darkness is associated with all things “evil.” The dark corrupts, hides the way, makes us blind, lurks with danger, and covers up truth. As metaphor, images of light and darkness have been employed to describe cosmic battles between good and evil since language developed.

Having pondered the commonly associated meanings to those power-filled words, ask yourself this question, If my skin tone is light, does that make me good? If my skin tone is dark, does that make me evil? Now ask the same questions as if you are four or five years old. Studies have shown that our children decide self-worth based on skin tone alone by age 6 or earlier based on the power-filled words they have heard early in life. By the way, the answer to the above questions is the same, “NO!” Skin tone has nothing to do with one’s character, one’s worth or one’s abilities. One’s potential may be another subject, especially if you are taught to associate your skin tone with something negative.

As church we must learn to take care whenever we use power-filled words such as light, dark, white, black, good and evil. We may not mean anything by what we say, and yet impressionable ears are always open to the mean we may say. May God help us speak with care for all who may hear us.

Peace & Joy,
Rev. Robert Bushey, Jr.