If it feels like you don't know where you're going, that's okay. Here's something that can help you reflect on what God might have in store for you and your congregation.
Issue 20: November 2022

Toward a More Hope-filled Advent 
By The Rev. Julie Goranson 

Each year during Advent, our church lights candles marking the anticipation of the coming birth of Christ. It is a beautiful tradition that spans time, denominations, and borders. This year, our church will continue in that beloved tradition – with a small twist. “Hope” is the first candle that we light in Advent. This year all of the remaining candles that we light – Peace, Joy and Love – will be celebrated by viewing these gifts of Advent in the light of hope and with a deepening understanding of hope. Starting Advent with hope as we always do, this year we will explore intrinsic hope, specifically we will together explore the hope that can be found in Peace, Joy and Love, as well as the hope on Christmas Eve of the hope found in the birth of Christ. 

In her book “Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times,” Kate Davies shares the following about the idea of intrinsic hope: 

Intrinsic hope is different from conventional hope because it is not based on the expectation that life will give us what we hope for. Instead, intrinsic hope is a deep, abiding trust in whatever happens and in the human capacity to respond to it positively. It accepts life just as it is and works with it, whether or not it’s what we want. As one of my students said, “it’s about making the best of any situation and never, ever giving up” (“Intrinsic Hope,” p. 14). 

Advent is a time of waiting, preparation and reflection. Christmas and Christmastide are times of celebration and gift-giving. During Advent and Christmas this year we will examine the “Habits of hope” -- intentional practices that have helped [many] foster intrinsic hope. They are: being present, expressing gratitude, loving the world, accepting what is, taking action, and persevering for the long haul” (“Intrinsic Hope”, p. 15). 
These habits, or ways of being or understanding, are really gifts we can give ourselves and the world.  

So, as we live through THIS Advent, we will look back at the prophet Isaiah, who foretold of hope and justice, at Mary who said “Yes!” to God’s possibility, and to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, who trusted in love and hope, eventually speaking his own prophetic words. Through all of these stories, we will look for hope – both the hope that was sought at that time, and our own hopes today.  

The Rev, Steve Garnaas-Holmes has said that hope is not optimistic anticipation, it's trust in what's already true, already here -- that God's creating energy, love, is always at work. In every moment, God is breathing a new world into existence. 
  1. As you anticipate the Advent season of hope, which of the suggested “habits of hope” (being present, expressing gratitude, loving the world, accepting what is, taking action, and persevering for the long haul) resonate with you as ways for discovering and experiencing hope that is already present? 
  2. How might you embody this type of hope during Advent? 
  3. How can intrinsic hope call forth the hope of others in our community? 
  4. Which of the steps for uncovering and nurturing hope would be most challenging for you/your faith community? Why? 
May your Advent and Christmas be blessed with hope and peace and joy and love. And especially hope. 

The Rev. Julie Goranson is pastor of Grace UCC in Wausau. 
Join the Discussion:
Toward a More Hope-filled Advent
The Supportive Ministries Team hosts a monthly discussion on topics from this newsletter. The next one, "Toward a More Hope-filled Advent," takes place on December 7 at 12:00 p.m. Central time on Zoom.

Please join us for a discussion on "Toward a More Hope-filled Advent," from the Rev. Julie Goranson's article above.

“Shining in the Shadows” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes
April 7, 2022 - Bangor Theological Seminary Webinar notes
Compiled by the Rev. Bob Ullman
God is not a being. God is Being itself (I AM.) God is all of being; the great Mystery/Love at the heart of everything. When you love, that is God being God.
Darkness is not bad, just unseen. Darkness is where everything begins.
Heaven is not out there but within everything. God is in everything.
Hope is trust in what is already there, already true, just unseen.
Every moment God is breathing the world into existence. (God is still breathing.)
You can’t stop spring from coming. You can’t stop God from creating.
God’s energy is just matter in particular form.
The yeast of love is already present everywhere.
What you are most worried about, God is already in it. 
Trust yourself and entrust yourself to God.
Choose to be on the side of wholeness and love in the face of violence and evil.
We despair about what’s happening in ___________ with __________ because we love, because we care.
Jesus asks, “Where does it hurt?” Then go there.
Trust the grace of God that’s in us/in the world.
Resurrection is not a happy ending but a new beginning.
The love of God flowing through the vessel of our hearts is infinite.
Take in pain, breathe out peace. Breathe out God’s dream of peace and wholeness (Shalom).
Be ye vulnerable as God is vulnerable.
It’s not about you.
There’s a difference in being afraid of something or some situation and being afraid because of a dangerous situation.
Your purpose in life is to be God’s Beloved and to let that flow from you into the world.
Practical Resources for Churches (prcli.org) has a little gift for you and your congregations - Advent Playlist and Wonder Questions. These feature four activities for families that take little to no preparation, attach to everyday rhythms, and help caregivers/parents add new tools to their faithful parenting toolbox. We have heard that congregations need ready-to-go resources to help already overwhelmed families. 
Please share these playlists through the season of Advent! Look for our new Cultivate Faith e-news once a month and our new page Faith Formation on our website.

Conference Supportive Ministries

In addition to the direct support to pastors and congregations provided by Wisconsin Conference staff, here are some of the supportive ministries congregations can take advantage of. Follow the link below to learn more about this programs and how your church might benefit.
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Coaching Partners
  • Grants and assistance programs
  • Communities of Practice for Clergy or Faith Formation
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations
  • Readiness 360
View a comprehensive list with more information about Supportive Ministries offerings.
Photo of Supportive Ministries Task Force
Supportive Ministries Task Force
Through this communication, the Wisconsin Conference Supportive Ministries Task Force provides articles, discussion guides and other resources for clergy and congregations on coping and thriving as we navigate the current turbulent waters. Supportive Ministries Task Force members from top left are Bob Ullman, Lisa Hart, Bonnie Andrews, Cathleen Wille and Tim Perkins.
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