Dear friends in Christ:

Shortly after the creation of Adam out of the dust of the ground God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” And so God created a helper fit for him. Have you ever wondered who God was talking to in that primeval conversation? Perhaps God was talking to the angels. Perhaps God was just doing what we all have done: talking to Himself. We may never know, but it does seem curious that although God made Adam with His own divine hands, and we are told that God made the man “in his image” God was still concerned that being alone was not good for Adam. Eventually in Genesis God creates a woman. Adam had a very favorable response to God’s efforts: “this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” At last Adam has a helper fit for him.

One thing seems clear to me in this. God created us to be in community with one another. We were not meant to be alone. It is, as the computer engineers say, community is “the way we are hard wired.”

This idea of community has a wonderful word in the original Greek language of the New Testament: koinonia.  This is the word the New Testament uses to describe the fellowship and unity of the early Christian believers. The Book of Acts gives us a twofold image of the life of the early church: they met publicly in the temple precincts, and privately in houses where they shared God’s Word, prayed, and broke bread together.

At Shepherd of the Valley our Growth Groups are the contemporary incarnation of God’s call to not be alone but to be in Christian community with one another. Our Growth Groups provide Christian spiritual community for people for much the same reason God created the first human family: we are hard wired to be in community. At rock bottom the source of our koinonia at Shepherd of the Valley is God’s call in baptism.

In baptism God makes us all family! That’s why we have moved the baptismal font to the center of the worshipping community on Sundays. On the way to receive Holy Communion we must pass by the baptismal font, and thereby be visually reminded that God has made us family in the waters of baptism. We can even dip our fingers in the water and touch our foreheads to remind ourselves what God has done in the waters of baptism. As Jesus was baptized and proclaimed Son of God at His baptism, so we are baptized and proclaimed sons and daughters of God at ours, and that makes us all family. Baptism welcomes us to the fellowship of the church as brothers and sister of the Lord Jesus. Holy Communion is what sustains and strengthens us as a family of God. That is why we call it “communion,” it is a coming together of the family of God to be fed at the table of God, and receive that spiritual “manna” that will sustain us in our wilderness journey through life  and death to new life, eternal life.

God uses the Growth Groups at Shepherd of the Valley to sustain and strengthen us as His family.  God is giving the gift of being family to the people of our congregation through the ministry of Growth Groups. That’s why this month is designated Growth Group month and June 26 will be Growth Group Sunday.

It has been said that one of the ironies of this age is that while we have so many means of communication: television, radio, internet, email, texting, tweeting, and on and on, and yet loneliness has become a greater social and spiritual problem for more people than ever before. This is why God calls us to be church and invites us to gather regularly in small groups: so that, like Adam in the beginning we would discover the joy of spiritual community, of koinonia. If you aren’t part of a Growth Group and would like to be please check out the bulletin board, email or call the church office, or contact me directly. We will find a place for you.

In Christ,
Pastor Joe Hughes
Voice or text: 217-898-9063