Solemn Assembly, January 2, 2022

Plans are well underway to convene the Solemn Assembly, after the approval by the church of the five-part recommendation below. The Solemn Assembly is a time for the congregation to think in all seriousness about our past, present, and future; to sing, pray, and talk about our best future; and to design the broad outlines of a six-month renewal process for the person of January through June of 2022. The Assembly will gather for three hours (10 am-1 pm) on Sunday morning January 2 (at a place to be determined).  This Assembly will be divided into three periods: 10-11, 11-12, and 12-1, thus allowing everyone to register to attend one, two, or all three sessions. Use the response form at the bottom of this page to register.  Each session will include hymn-singing and a short inspirational talk, plus some brainstorming, conversation, and prayer. Session three at noon will include both a healthy, hearty lunch and The Lord’s Supper. All health precautions will be taken: vaccinations, masks, and social distancing; and we are monitoring the public health situation closely, always aware that the event may need to be moved to cyber space (zoom), cancelled or postponed. ________________________________________________________________ RECOMMENDATION (as approved on Sunday, December 12, 2021) We, the Coordinating Council of Providence Church, propose calling a Solemn Assembly for Sunday January 2, 2022. The purpose of this Assembly is to address the critical situation of our congregation. There are very real threats to the flourishing of our gospel work to which we must respond.     A Solemn Assembly is a special gathering of the people of God to seek renewal of their covenant with God.     Solemn Assemblies were a regular feature of Israel’s religious life, as described in the Hebrew Bible. The word ezarah is used to describe both annual and normal religious festivals like Tabernacles and Passover as well as special religious occasions convened to respond to particular and urgent needs of the people. Such assemblies were often characterized by repentance, sacrifices, prayers, fasting, and setting aside of ordinary duties and activities.     Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem, the Hebrew prophet Joel wrote. Announce a time of fasting. Call the people together for a solemn assembly. He then mentions elders, children, brides and grooms, and priests as among those expected to join in this special time of seeking the Lord’s favor. The prophet grounds this appeal in the character of the Lord God who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and filled with unfailing love. (Joel 2:12-17).     While the Solemn Assembly is rooted in the Hebrew Bible and the life of Israel, the resurrection of Jesus our Lord interjects a pervasive spirit of joy into our community life, even during hard times. Rejoice in the Lord, the apostle Paul wrote to those first followers of The Way in Philippi, Again I say, rejoice!! This call to joy—to live with joy, serve with joy, sing with joy—pushes us to envision our assembly and all that it portends evolving into a community of faith  characterized by joy, that the fasting so common to the Solemn Assembly will be supplemented by the feasting so appropriate to a Joyful Assembly.     Therefore, we hope to plan and lead our Assembly (and our six month journey to renewal) in such a way that the sense of seriousness, of solemnity that arises out of our awareness of our need can and will lead  into an experience of joy and hope, that it can and will fulfill the prophecy given to our church when the Lord led us to this affirmation: Sing for Joy, Live with Hope.     We strongly sense the leadership of the Holy Spirit in calling this Solemn Assembly. The Assembly is a time for congregational prayer; it is a time for the congregation to reaffirm our commitment to one another and to the common mission we have received from the Lord; it is a time to nurture our desire to seek fresh direction and blessing from the Lord.     These are extraordinary times, both for our congregation and also for the wider American community. We have suffered steady decline in membership and participation due to relocation, conflict, and resignations. In addition to our own trauma, we are part of the decline in adherence and influence of the entire Christian community. Finally, we live in a time of unprecedented social and political upheaval. All these factors create the challenging times in which we live, work, and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.     We propose to convene this Solemn Assembly on Sunday morning, January 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at a place in or near Hendersonville able to accommodate our planned activities in ways consistent with our COVID health protocols. We plan to lead the congregation in singing, praying, testifying, planning, and launching our focused efforts in renewing the life of our church, serving the needs of those in and around our congregation, and seeking to grow our fellowship, all within the next six months.     Our hope is that the Solemn Assembly will result in a:
  • fresh sense of humility, forgiveness, and togetherness in the Lord,
  • fresh strategies for strengthening the worship and ministries of the church,
  • fresh energies for all committed to the wellbeing of Providence Church, and
  • fresh opportunities for fulfilling our evangelistic mission in our wider community.
    We plan to conclude our Solemn Assembly with a fellowship meal—a feast—followed by the Lord’s Supper.     Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.     We strongly sense the need to forego ordinary and traditional things so that we might give ourselves to the extraordinary measures called forth by the challenges that face our congregation. To these ends, we intend to present to the congregation gathered in business session on Sunday, December 12, the following course of action and urge them to embrace it as our strong and prayerful response to these extraordinary times:
  • Extend Rev. Dwight Moody’s contract for six more months and name him Pastor (interim) with special focus on worship, organizational leadership, public relations, and pastoral care.
  • Contract with Rev. Marcy Mynatt to serve for six months as Associate Pastor (interim) with special focus on church administration, communication, lay empowerment, and pastoral care.
  • Gather in Solemn Assembly on January 2 to begin planning a six-month journey to congregational renewal, with attention given to theme, finances, participation, events, worship (including confession, prayer, music and preaching), and some benchmarks of success.
  • Identify and implement creative and inclusive strategies of mobilizing all those committed to the flourishing of the congregation, not just those designated as members, and not just those able and willing to gather in the sanctuary.
  • Prioritize prayer, forgiveness, unity, trust, kindness, friendship, courage, joy, and hope among all of our people and in all of our dealings with one another throughout the six-month journey.
    We recognize that this one gathering, this Solemn Assembly will not, alone, ensure the results that we seek. But we believe it has the potential to be a good beginning to the process of renewing our congregation and blessing all of us with a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit.     Phil Allen, Lisa Obermiller, Gail Coulter, Herb Sierk, Annette Hudson Coordinating Council Providence Baptist Church December 5, 2021      

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