February 4, 2021 Pastor Ashley’s Column

My friends in Christ,

Grace and peace today! Though many of you may have already heard this, I wanted to take a quick moment to give a few important staffing updates for our church. Elliott Rinehart and his family have made the decision to move back to California and be closer to family. While we are so sad to see them go (and especially grieved that we had to meet at a distance the whole time they were here), we are supportive of their journey and continue to pray for Elliott, Kessa, and Abraham. They have already made the move back to California and Felicia Johnson has agreed to step in and support High School youth group as the Interim Youth Director in this season. She will, of course, continue on in her great work with Club 56 and Middle School students and is excited to deepen her relationships with the high schoolers in our church and greater community. Thank you, Felicia!

Speaking of Felicia, I would encourage you to follow one of our Youth Facebook pages (either CSYG or Cornerstone Middle School Youth Page) as Felicia will be sharing #BlackBiblicalHistory in honor of Black History Month every Thursday in February. Today, she shared an honest and vulnerable post that talked not only about her experiences and insight, but also interesting Biblical facts that lift up the importance of black folks in the Bible. This month, I hope you will find new ways to explore and learn about Black History. Here is an excerpt of Felicia’s post this morning that presses us with that challenge even more clearly: “So I challenge you to continue to listen but at some point ask God what role do you play in changing the way things are happening… We must do more to educate and effect change.” Thank you, Felicia, for your bold and clear voice this month. I also want to invite you to join me for a webinar hosted by Seattle Pacific Seminary this month, where we will welcome Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley, author of Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope. This is another opportunity to celebrate Black History month and learn more about the African American experience in the United States as it intersects with our faith. The webinar will take place on February 24th at 7 PM. Please contact me if you need assistance registering for this free event.

As another staffing update, I wanted to let you know that I have agreed to stay on as your Interim Pastor through the rest of the appointment year. This means we have about five more months together, and I will transition out of this role at the end of June. Cornerstone will receive a newly appointed, full-time pastor on July 1st, 2021. I encourage you to be praying for this person, for their leadership, and for the next season that Cornerstone will embark on together. In the months I have left serving with you, I hope that we can continue to have conversations of healing and growth. My prayer is that you will reach out to me with your concerns and questions so that we can work together in this season.

Last week at our leadership meeting, I shared the following passage with our group. It comes from Colossians 3:12-17:“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I will be the first to admit that this past season has had its share of difficulties. As we stated time and again, it felt as though Cornerstone was (and is) enduring a significant wilderness season. Yet as I read these verses, I imagine what it would look like for us to truly take them seriously, how we might be transformed in the wilderness. What if our faith and relationships with one another were truly clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, because these are the garments which shield us from the harshness of the wilderness? What if we truly bore with one another in love, even when things got tough and the terrain felt difficult to navigate, because bearing with one another in love is the only way we are able to traverse through the wilderness.

I do believe that this church has been a testament to love binding us together in harmony, but there have been and will be difficult seasons in which that love is tested, harmony feels like a distant memory, and thankfulness feels harder to come by. In those moments, it is our rhythms of allowing the “word of Christ to dwell” among us, our ability to teach and admonish one another in love and grace, the desire to sing together in community, and the decision to commit all our words and deeds to Jesus that will carry the body of Christ and the people of Cornerstone through difficult terrain and wilderness seasons. Did you catch that we are not only to teach one another, but also admonish? This is a word that is synonymous with reprimanding or warning someone. It is only in a community in which the peace of Christ rules and love binds us together that we can look at one another and say: “What you are doing is harming the community. It is harming my brothers and sisters, it is breaking apart the fellowship, and it is jeopardizing the love that binds us together.” Only when we are truly bound together in love can we say these things in grace and humility, while expecting them to be received with understanding and humility. And only when we are looking at ourselves clearly and open to also receiving admonishment are we able to make these statements in love. Make no mistake; this work will take everyone. It will take humility, compassion, kindness, meekness, and patience. The reward for this work is a body of believers that are bound together even more tightly in love as they step out of the wilderness.

This group of believers, the faithful people at Cornerstone Church, continues to amaze me. You have stuck with one another through trial and uncertainty, through difficult seasons and the inability to meet, and you look at one another in love. I challenge you to take this mutual affection for one another into the coming season, with a desire to love one another and our community even more fervently through the love which we have received from Christ. And be thankful, because when I look around at all of you (usually on a Zoom screen, these days), I see so many reasons to be thankful in the faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. May God bless these comings days, weeks, and months in the life of our Cornerstone family.

In the Love and Grace and Christ,

Pastor Ashley