Tag Archives: Noel Santiago

Called Outside of “Church”

by Mike Spinelli, Perkiomenville congregation

It is not often that you get to bless someone as they enter a new ministry while knowing that they are staying around as part of your church family.  At Perkiomenville Mennonite Church (Perk for short), we were able to do this as we blessed Scott and Heather Roth for a new ministry with Young Life in the Upper Perkiomen Valley.

Scott Roth shares at Fall Assembly 2018.

Scott’s ministry in the Upper Perk Valley has taken many forms, from teen center and bike shop manager to thrift store director.  He has also been the associate pastor for Perk for the last five years.  Through it all, Scott’s heart for Upper Perk is well known, in the Valley as well as the church. 

As a church, Perk has benefited from Scott’s unconventional approach to ministry.  While we have some of the typical church programs for youth, Scott has also used his connections in Upper Perk to create on-going service projects.  He also used an online platform to connect kids in deeper exploration of faith themes.  But Scott felt there was a work he was called to outside of the “traditional church.”

Scott began to sense that God might be opening a new avenue of ministry; that avenue presented itself as Young Life.  Young Life is a national ministry aimed at engaging teenagers with the good news of Jesus through weekly club meetings, Bible studies and camp.  Young Life leaders first engage students in their own spaces—like clubs and sports—and invite them to join the weekly meetings when they are ready.

Scott worked with a group of volunteers to start the club portion of the program in the fall of 2017, but he began to feel he could be doing more.  Through a season of prayer and discernment with family, friends, and other associates, Scott pursued becoming a full-time missionary with Young Life.  His status with Young Life was confirmed in October of 2018.

Scott and Heather Roth are blessed by Perkiomenville leadership and Franconia Conference Leadership Minister Noel Santiago.

On December 16, 2018, Perk Church used part of the morning worship service to affirm and bless Scott and Heather for their past ministry and the new venture.  Different people of various ages spoke of Scott’s unique way of pushing their boundaries.  Scott shared how much Perk Church has blessed his family and how they are glad to remain as part of the congregation.  Together we celebrated Scott’s testing of our comfort zones and blessed them as a couple who were now stretching their own comfort with this new venture.

While Scott’s role at Perk has concluded, the Roths (including children Rowan and Ashlyn) will still call Perk their church home.  Scott noted that he will soon be a youth parent as Rowan will transition into the youth group after this school year.  The church is also part of his financial support team.  Knowing Scott, the partnership of Young Life and Perk Church will soon extend to helping new students and families engage and enter God’s kingdom and find new life in Christ.

Prayer for Assembly

by Noel Santiago, Leadership Minister for Missional Transformation

As we come upon our time for Conference Assembly, we are focused on being one in the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I believe Jesus would be looking forward to this weekend with anticipation of his prayer being answered in John 17. 

In this passage, he has prayed for himself, his disciples and then for all those who will believe – this includes you and me. After praying for his disciples Jesus goes on to pray these words, they may be His word for us this weekend:

I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me.

– John 17:20- 23 MSG

May we find that Jesus’ prayer continues to be answered as we gather together in the Spirit and in peace.

The Old Has Gone, The New Has Come

By Noel Santiago, Leadership Minister for Missional Transformation

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

The word ‘therefore’ points to what comes before. When I look at this, I’m drawn to look before and I find another ‘therefore’ in verse 16. So, I go to the previous section up to verse 12; the heading that translators have given it in some Bibles is “Being Reconciled to God.” In verse 12 this phrase jumps out at me: “those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.”

What does that mean? Is there a connection between the old and appearance, and the new and the heart? A slew of phrases begin to pop out. Phrases such as:

  • “if we are beside ourselves, it is for God,” (2 Corinthians 5:13);
  • “if we are of sound mind, it is for you,” (2 Corinthians 5:13);
  • “the love of Christ compels us,” (2 Corinthians 5:14);
  • “we judge thus,” (2 Corinthians 5:14);
  • “if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all,” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15);
  • “those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again,” (2 Corinthians 5:15);
  • “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh,” (2 Corinthians 5:16); Is this what the appearance mentioned above is about?
  • “Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer,” (2 Corinthians 5:16);
  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Does this mean that we are now known in heaven differently than on earth? If so, how am I known in heaven? Is there a connection here with the 1 Peter 1:3-4 passage, especially as it relates to partaking in the divine nature? As 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…”

Do we see each other in this way? Do I see myself in this way?

Is it possible that the old has to do with external appearances of a life lived for self and the new has to do with the internal condition of the heart and a life lived for Christ? If so, then why do I struggle with the realities of the external when supposedly I am new on the inside?

Might one clue be found in 2 Peter 1:9 where the writer states that when I forget my past sins have been cleansed, I become nearsighted and blind? So, might remembering this reality help me see more clearly the new that has come – which is Jesus Christ in me the hope of glory now?

Holy Spirit, would you help me to remember that the old has gone and the new has come? Would you help me remember that my past sins – that which is old – have been cleansed and the new, your life in me now, has come? Allow this reality to be the ground from which I live and move and have my being. Let this truth be how I see others as well as myself, as redeemed, renewed, cleansed, restored, made whole and beloved in Christ. Let this mindset be the mindset from where I engaged my life circumstances and those whom you have placed around me. Would you open the eyes of others so they too can see themselves as you see them and together may we be drawn closer to you as we lift up your name for all people to be drawn to you? In Jesus I pray, amen!

 I’m indebted to the Sunday morning bible study and prayer group at Blooming Glen for some of these insights and observations

Learning to Pray In New Ways

By Randy Heacock, Leadership Minister and Pastor at Doylestown Mennonite Church

Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks?  Many of us have heard or said this phrase over our lifetime. We say this to state the challenge when trying to change patterns or habits. Those of us in congregational leadership can name our fair share of experiences that indicate old dogs do not learn new tricks. However, I want to celebrate a congregation that is learning to pray in new ways.

For some time I have been disturbed by the focus of our prayers. Back in 2013 while on sabbatical, I visited 10 congregations to see how they did prayer on a Sunday morning and to discover what their practice communicated about the purpose of prayer. Though some churches were quite liturgical and others more informal, my overall conclusion of the purpose of congregational prayer was that God needed to be directed what and how to help those we love. In talking with individuals, I discovered people had formulas and for some, their prayers were bargaining sessions with God.

I struggled to align this with Jesus’ teaching, “thy kingdom come and thy will be done.”  Our prayers seem to call on God to make our will be done and our kingdom be ordered as we see fit. However, I knew changing our prayer habits would not be easy. Even the suggestion that our practice of prayer needed to be altered raised some eyebrows. For the past several years, we at Doylestown Mennonite have tried a few different ways to pray. I preached differently about prayer and we offered some additional training.

Recently, we invited Noel Santiago, Franconia Conference Leadership Minister for Missional Transformation, to lead us in four sessions on prayer. Though we have only had two of the four sessions thus far, there is clear evidence that we are learning to pray in new ways. Noel quickly developed a level of trust with those present and encouraged us to believe for our time together that God will speak to us if we listen.  Rather than starting with our need, Noel encouraged us to seek what God wanted and then pray for that rather than our own desire. While it would be too lengthy of an article if I went into all that Noel has shared in our two sessions, I can tell you people are being changed.

People from the age of 18 to 89 are reflecting together on what God has said to them.   Tears have been shed for prayers people have crafted for one another. A younger person declared only God could have given those specific words of encouragement. Noel then pointed out that we prophesied over one another. We are a long way from mastering this new way to pray as we raise questions and acknowledge some awkwardness. Yet there is no doubt the Spirit is moving and God is stirring deep within us.

Please pray for us as we have two sessions yet to complete, but also as we seek to continue to practice and learn what God has for us in prayer. I am grateful that Franconia Conference is willing to hire such people like Noel with different gifts to equip us as churches. I have witnessed people of all ages, learning new ways to approach God in prayer!

 

Leadership Ministers Reflect and Refine

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

For generations, one of the primary tasks of Franconia Conference was to provide leadership accompaniment with congregations and credentialed leaders.  The call to serve as a bishop was a serious call to lead, serve and offer wisdom and counsel.  It was a weighty role.  I grew up with a bishop in my home community in Allegheny Conference and for some of us in Franconia, we remember those days, too.   Our bishop still wore a plain coat on Sundays and he preached long sermons.  I still remember being surprised to see him visiting his sister one day while working on the garden to pick green beans and he was wearing a flannel shirt, conversing (not preaching) and laughing.

For almost a decade now, our conference has framed this work as leadership ministers.  We have attempted to find footing alongside congregations to invite, provoke and accompany during rapid cultural changes.  Our conference is now served by a team of ten leadership ministers: men and women from different generations, with different cultural backgrounds and different language capacities to continue to cultivate God’s dream among our 45 congregations.  It’s a key task and incarnation of what we do together.

Our leadership ministers met the end of March, during what we hope will be the last heavy snowstorm, at Mariawald Retreat Center near Reading to review and reimagine our work together.  Some of us weren’t able to get there due to the snow, so we used Zoom to connect with these colleagues.  Some colleagues left early and some stayed later to wait out the storm.  In the meantime, we enjoyed the lovely and hospitable space of Mariawald, hosted by Catholic nuns from Africa who are now in Berks County as part of their vocation of serving God and the church.  The snow was stunningly beautiful even though we may have been ready to move onto spring.  It was in some ways metaphoric of the difficulty and possibility of doing our work in this time and space.

Together we began the task of refining our work.  We will continue to work around the Conference’s approach to ministry and leadership which is formational, missional and intercultural.  We will continue to align our ministry staff around those ongoing priorities.  We are beginning to work together to understand how to include congregations at our farthest distances now with a staff representative based in California to serve our congregations there.  And we’re evaluating best practices to serve congregations that are close by to us too, sometimes just blocks from where we live or less than a mile from the Conference office at Dock Mennonite Academy.

Franconia staff: (front) Aldo Siahaan, (L to R) Mary Nitzsche, Wayne Nitzsche, Noel Santiago, John Stoltzfus, Jeff Wright, Mike Clemmer, Randy Heacock and Steve Kriss.

I am grateful now for a full staff team after over a year of navigating through changes.   We are beginning to learn together, to laugh, to build deeper trust.  We are leaning in toward our individual gifts and callings recognizing our invitation to serve God in the way of Christ’s peace through our historic and growing community.   As a Conference, we are privileged to be resourced well through ongoing generosity and wise stewardship.   I continue to be grateful for the sense of care and mutuality that we have together and the divine invitation to continued transformation by the power of the Spirit in this journey of faith, hope and love together.

I Will Build My Church

by Noel Santiago, LEADership Minister

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (EKKLESIA), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16: 18 (NIV).

It’s really interesting to note something specific in this passage related to the word ‘church’. Most people would think in terms of a building; some think in terms of a community of faith and some in terms of religious activities. None of these are incorrect per se, but the word that Jesus uses here is the Greek word Ekklesia which in short means ‘assembly.’

Since we understand one meaning of ‘church’ to be ‘congregation’, many would say this is just mincing words, i.e. “church, assembly, what’s the difference? We all know what we mean.” But the word church comes from a different origin: the Greek word kuriakos – ‘Belonging to the Lord’, which emerges from the word kurios – ‘Lord’. This word doesn’t even resemble the Greek “ekklesia”. It’s like confusing a Cadillac for a Jeep; you can’t! In the early centuries, believers called the place in which they met, Kuriakos Oikia, the Lord’s House. This has become the common meaning.

An Interesting connection to the Anabaptist heritage is that we called our places of gathering meeting houses, not churches. We understood that the church is the people, not the building. Could something similar to this be going on in this passage?

Jesus is not saying church in the sense of ‘the Lord’s House” Kuriakos Oikia. He is saying ekklesia. In this sense, then, ekklesia means: “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly.” This is not just a gathering, rather it’s an assembly of the people convened at the public place of council for the purpose of deliberating.

The practice of ekklesia had been in use for about 500 years by the time of Christ. It had specific, well known connotations. Every city had a ruling assembly, an ekklesia. Ekklesia was the principal assembly of the government in Athens, Greece, open to all male citizens over the age of 18. An ekklesia was comprised of a quorum of up to 6,000 citizens. It was responsible for declaring war, military strategy, electing military generals and other officials, including chief magistrates of the city-state. It voted on decrees, treaties and law proposals. It typically met 3-4 times a month.

Here’s the key point – the ekklesia was by definition a legislative or ruling assembly.

For Jesus to say “…upon this rock I will build my ekklesia” is to invite obvious contrast with other ekklesias. Every city had a ruling assembly, an ekklesia. Jesus is announcing His restoration plan where He will diffuse His ruling power into an assembly of disciples! In essence He establishes His governing body of Heaven on the earth through you and me – His ekklesia!

When Jesus talked about “upon this rock I will build my church” he was referring to ‘ekklesia’ which means ‘ruling assembly’, not ‘Oikia’ which means household. What Jesus is saying is that I am now establishing my ekklesia – my ruling assembly if you will. I’m installing my ruling governmental assembly that will rule, be responsible and loyal to God above all others! It will stand in contrast to the rulers and principalities of this world and it’s foundational ruling characteristic and value will be based on LOVE! When we gather, we gather as the ruling body in the region! This authority and function of the assembly is fundamental to properly understanding what Jesus initiated in Mathew 16:18.

In Matthew 16 verses 15-16, “Jesus stands before them and asks, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ In a revelation from heaven, Peter says: ‘You’re the one, the anointed one from God, the Messiah. You’re the ruler of rulers; the promised king!’”

As a ruling body (ekklesia) we have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus commissioned you and me when He said in Matthew 28:18-20 (NASU), “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

What is the Holy Spirit saying right now? What invitation is God extending? How will we, His church, His assembly, respond?

Studying and Remembering Calling

(Estudiando y recordando llamada)

by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister

I’ve studied Spanish off and on for nearly 40 years. My initial introduction happened via Sesame Street on TV with some Spanish interspersed between Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird. I then learned some basics at West End Elementary School. Much of that remains readily in my brain — even the crayons that were adhered to the wall of my classroom at West End Elementary.

For two years in high school, I studied Spanish with Ruth Y. Hunsberger, who after her time serving at Academia Menonita Betania, added a PA Dutch and Boricua accent to my Spanish pronunciation. I picked up more Tejano Spanish in San Antonio after serving a summer with Mennonite Mission Network in San Antonio which catapulted me into a more advanced Spanish class than probably was appropriate at Eastern Mennonite University where I studied as an undergraduate. I never got my language construction quite right after that.

Since then, I’ve studied several other languages a bit. I grew up in a household where my Grandpa spoke Slovak and snippets of other European languages. I was raised with an understanding that knowing some of the language of the neighbors could be valuable. Today, my immediate next door neighbors speak Spanish.

Earlier this year, for three weeks, I took the time to re-immerse myself in Spanish.  I chose a school removed from familiar communities so that I’d have to be a student only.  Though I did some work from Mexico, my immediate environment was school and navigating through an attempted Spanish upgrade. It was both humbling and invigorating.

After three weeks, my comprehension has improved. My colleague Noel Santiago and I are able to have conversations we haven’t had before in Spanish. I’m trying to practice every day, which so far has more often seemed endearing than annoying to those who’ve had to endure my commitment to keep practicing, even if it’s only when I’m ordering enchiladas.

While studying, I was reminded of the beauty and brokenness of the world. As a student in a secular language school, I found many people seeking and searching. My co-learners came from all over the world to a small city in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to learn, to relax, to find something. I was invigorated by learning alongside them in their search. Admittedly, more often than not, the church was far from conversation and their search. Some were curious about my work and spirituality. Others avoided the conversation even when it surfaced.

But in these three weeks, I was reminded of my own call to serve the church as a pastor. It was a reminder of the commitments that I made to search out ways that the Gospel might really mean hope, freedom, and redemption for persons who are seeking and stumbling, for those who need comfort as well as those who need to be discomforted. It was a reminder to pay attention to all that is beautiful and broken, to find times when I might also be able to say as Jesus did, “the reign of God is near.”

I’m back with better Spanish, but I’ll have to struggle every day to maintain it. Next month, Marta Castillo will head to Indonesia to get an upgrade on her Indonesian language skills, so that she’s better able to accompany our Indonesian speaking communities as well. As a Conference, we are committed to having a multilingual ministry team, not only because it’s chido (cool) but because it also represents the work of the Spirit at Pentecost to bring the Good News to all people.

It’s our ongoing commitment as disciples, as leaders, as pastors, to extend the Good News to all people, until God’s reign comes in it’s fullness.  We are in it together.  Bersama.  Juntos. cùng với nhau. The beautiful and broken world is waiting to hear us.

Binding Together What is Seen and Unseen

by Noel Santiago

Matt 16:19 (NIV) – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

In the verses before the text above, Simon (later called Peter) has declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the awaited Messiah. Jesus’ response is to declare Simon as blessed because of the revelation he has not only received, but declared!

There is more going on here than meets the eye, because Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on to change Simon’s name to Peter and declare that he is going to build His church and that the gates of hades will not prevail against it. Furthermore, Jesus gives him keys to the kingdom and declares that whatever is bound on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven! Wow! Who would of thought all this would have happened from a seemingly simple declaration! What’s going on here?

It would seem that there is an interplay being established here that is binding together what is not seen to what is seen. The agent of what is visible will become what we know today as the church at work on the earth, but what about the agents of what is not seen? Did he say it would be earth that decides what is bound or loosed in heaven? Is that right? Well, if this is so it makes me wonder then what is it we bind up on earth that causes heaven to bind it up there and what is it we loose on earth that causes heaven to loose that?

Jesus continually interacted with what was seen and not seen in dealing with people’s needs and bondages in the realm of the spirit. When Jesus laid down His life on the cross, we are told that the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The veil was what separated God in the most holy place from humankind; heaven and earth would be one again and the binding agent would be Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. Paul, would later write to the Ephesians saying that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

Is it possible that there is an entangled connection between earth and heaven; a binding together of what is seen and unseen? If so, what is the nature of this interplay? Is it possible that God in Christ, is calling us to help bring heaven to earth today?

Doing Kingdom Work

By Noel Santiago

Hope for the Future is a unique gathering in that it brings together leaders of color and white leaders who work and serve in MCUSA agencies, institutions and organizations, to intentionally focus the work of intercultural transformation in the church. While it’s primarily focused on the agencies, institutions and organizations of MCUSA, the hope is to eventually impact all parts of the church. This gathering grew out of needs being felt by people of color in church-wide leadership positions who continually encounter systemic racism in a multiplicity of ways.

Franconia Conference leaders of color attendees included Danilo Sanchez, Ertell Whigham, Colleen Whigham-Brockington and Noel Santiago

This year, the sixth Hope for the Future gathering took place February 2-5, 2017 in Hampton, Virginia. Approximately 75 persons gathered from across the United States. Persons of Native American, African American, Asian, Hispanic, and other backgrounds as well as Swiss, Germanic, Dutch, and other ethnicities were present.

The theme of this year’s gathering was “Doing Kingdom Work”. Carlos Romero, Executive Director of Mennonite Education Agency and member of the Hope for the Future planning committee, framed the work for the weekend stating, “We have come together for such a time as this,” speaking to today’s political climate.

These tensions felt today are not new. In the 1970’s, when there seemed to be momentum among people of color in leadership within the denomination, most of the positions of people of color were eliminated under what was called “restructuring.”  This led to a handful of leaders of color in the Mennonite Church feeling the need to meet for mutual support and counsel.  When other leaders of color became aware of this gathering, they voiced an interest in participating in such a forum/conversation.  Out of this grew Hope for the Future.

The purpose for these gatherings was formulated as follows:

  • To gather as a worshiping community of faith to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church through the leaders of color within Mennonite Church USA system.
  • To provide a safe setting to assess the present reality and experiences for leaders of color within Mennonite Church USA system.
  • To put forth a plan/strategy/call for deepening awareness and ownership of the ongoing transformation of Mennonite Church USA.
  • To collect learnings from leaders of color to create a forum to bring about the next level of transformation for Mennonite Church USA.

To not have history repeat itself it is important for both people of color and the white culture, to be intentional about inviting and retaining people of color.  Hope for the Future allows space for discussion on how various things impact people in different ways.  This year, discussions focused on what it means to be a peace church in consideration of the lived reality of people of color in this country, how to monitor and change when policies are being implemented inconsistently, and visioning for Hope for the Future.

Because of the work being done through Hope for the Future since 2011, this year’s gathering also called for reporting by MCUSA agencies, institutions and organizations on their progress on policies and practices that address the hiring and retaining of persons of color within their respective organizations. While much progress has been made, there is still much to do.

Hope for the Future is not a one-time event, gathering, conference or what have you. It is about the lived experiential realities people of color encounter on a day to day basis in our church. Our hope is that the ‘kin-dom’ of God will come on earth, in our church, as it is in heaven. To this end, we hope for the future!

For more about the 2017 gathering, check out Hope for the Future: Together For a Time Such as This, in The Mennonite.

Visible and Invisible Realms

By Noel Santiago

Colossians 1:16 (NIV), “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

noel-photoWhile Colossians 1:16 clearly states that God created the “visible and invisible,” could we say that we in the west rely more on what we see than what we don’t see? Is it fair to say that we don’t always believe nor live as if the spirit world is real? I wonder if this is because we have grown up under the influence of the enlightenment movement, that swept Europe around 300 year ago, claiming if you can’t prove it scientifically, it doesn’t exist.

I appreciate and value much of what science has helped bring forth. Indeed, many of the early scientist themselves where Christians. However, there seems to be many challenges for us in the west when it comes to believing and living as if the spirit is real.

First, the challenge with the scientific method is: how do you prove the existence of say, angels, demons or God for that matter — especially, when they don’t hang around long enough for us to conduct reproducible scientific experiments that yield the same results, which is one of the fundamental requirements of the scientific method.

Another challenge is that while we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, we forget that it is also a Middle Eastern book whose worldview is quite different than the western worldview. In this worldview, the spirit realm is very real and evident in our lives. So as westerners, with a culture where anything not scientifically proven is superstitious or folk tradition, we have a greater challenge to see the spirit realm.

There is also the notion of the “God gap” that exists within in our society. The God gap says that science will eventually be able to answer all questions we don’t have answers to now and consequently we won’t need God or the spirit world to help us understand and explain what we don’t know.

The Bible talks about binding and loosing (Mt 16:19); whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, etc. This is the interplay between these two realms, the realm of what you can see and touch and the realm of what you cannot see and touch.

The Colossian text tells us that the spirit world is real! It’s as real as the world in which we live, for out of it came all things that exist, into existence! Might we take some time to consider the possibility that the spirit world is just as real as the physical world? What, if any, difference might this make in our lives, our communities of faith and in the world?