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Faith, Reloville and Committee Meetings

This year I started a term on my church’s session. We’re Presbyterians and in our tradition this body is sort of like a board of directors. At this point, two or three meetings into the year, I’m just getting my feet wet. It is amazing to see what goes on behind the scenes of a mid-sized congregation in Alpharetta. It’s a ton of hard work from a lot of folks, something I think most church goers don’t realize by just warming a pew.

I sometimes get distracted in our committee meetings? Why? It’s amazing how many issues come up that pertain to themes I blog about. I find myself jotting notes for future articles. It all makes sense I suppose. Congregations reflect the general community around them. Ours was formed and influenced by the factors that shaped a growing Alpharetta. In just three meetings we’ve discussed topics like relocated professionals, the local job market, showing hospitality to our neighbors and serving needy in the community. Sound familiar? See my category list to the right.

It’s an honor to serve my congregation, I hope I don’t disappoint. In the meantime, I’m positive this will generate some blog inspiration. I never thought writing on faith would interweave into my theme this much. Stay tuned.

Christmas in Alpharetta

The other night I was helping my wife with a marathon Christmas gift wrapping session. Something occurred to me while I was stuffing presents under the tree. I was running out of room for presents. They were stacked upon themselves, getting into the limbs of the tree itself and spilling out onto the living room floor. These were gifts for my family and some extended family, but nothing yet from Santa of course. Santa’s gifts are hidden in a closet yet to be delivered on his sleigh.

The sight of presents spilling out from under my tree was a very visual representation of our abundance here in the affluent burbs. We are all very blessed to live here. We’re lucky to be in a community that continues to add jobs in this economy. We’re fortunate to have the means to give generously to those we love at Christmas. Please don’t take that for granted. With everything that goes on in our busy suburban lives it’s easy to lose sight of it all.

Over the past year I’ve come to make some cool new acquaintances through my blog. I want to take the time to wish you all a Merry Christmas. And if you’re an Alpharetta relo who’s off to visit family back home, I wish you safe and grope-free travels on your journey.

Photo Credit: Allie Towers Rice

Is this Heaven? No, it’s Alpharetta

This past week a few of us had to deliver faith statements for something at church. We were encouraged to be a little creative, so I framed mine around living in the affluent burbs. What can I say, that’s just how I roll. Thought I would share my suburban faith statement here on my blog since it is very relevant.

I recently heard our preacher talk about the great ends of the church,  among those are the “exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world.” With apologies to an outstanding baseball movie, the first thing that went through my mind was … “Is this heaven? No, it’s Alpharetta.”

Sometimes I frame my faith against my life here in the suburbs. My faith has taught me to recognize contradictions I observe. Despite living in one of America’s most affluent suburbs, we have local charities that struggle to meet the demands of their clients. We have rising unemployment in a town of a hundred thousand high-tech cubicle jobs.

My faith teaches me to love my neighbor. We live so close to our neighbors that the acorns from their trees land on my patio furniture, yet I hardly know them. It’s life in the suburbs. Are we “exhibiting the kingdom of heaven”? Hardly. It’s embarrassing really.

My faith teaches me that I’m an imperfect man. There’s a shocker! Despite my sinful ways and failures, Christ died for me. Even though we often don’t heed even the greatest commandment, Christ reconciles us to Him. It’s powerful stuff, yet remarkably simple at the same time. Even so, it is difficult for many here in Alpharetta, myself included, to put our faith into practice, even with the vast resources we possess. So what does Alpharetta look like when we exhibit the kingdom of Heaven? I’m sure it looks a lot different. I’d imagine we don’t cut each other off on GA-400.

I’m trying to raise a young family in Alpharetta. Like most parents I want my children to be well-grounded. I hope they learn to see through the gilded opulence that exists here. I want them to be thankful for the many blessings we take for granted and to be generous givers of their talents and treasures. I’m extremely grateful to have a congregation that will play an important part in their faith journey in the coming years. Thank you and God bless.

The Greatest Paradox of the Affluent Burbs

The call went out. I noticed it twice in the course of the week. First it was in our church bulletin. A few days later I discovered this article in the Neighbor Newspaper. North Fulton Community Charities is in a bind. Cash flow is a little tight in the summer months, which makes providing services a little tough. On top of that, the food pantry continues to have high demand.

This is the greatest paradox of living in the affluent suburbs of Atlanta. Actually it is a double paradox. The fact that there is such demand for assistance may surprise some. Sure, we’re in a prolonged recession. Yet many of our neighbors are not as well off as you might think. Talk to enough volunteers at NFCC and you’ll hear stories of folks in luxury cars asking for help at the food pantry. It’s a paradox. It happens every day. Even in Alpharetta. Even in Johns Creek.

The second paradox is that charities like NFCC struggle financially. It makes me a bit embarrassed quite honestly. We drive nice cars, live in fancy neighborhoods, dine in expensive restaurants but don’t make even small contributions to local charities in need.

I gave a little something after reading this article. It isn’t much at all. I suppose indirectly I’ve helped through my church. Our congregation, like many others in north Fulton, supports NFCC in a lot of ways. But I couldn’t in good conscience write this article without doing something. We’re blessed to live in this area. Please do your part to support local charities in need.

North Point Church is Building Bridges

North Point Community Church is building bridges. Sure, a lot of churches build bridges, figuratively and metaphorically speaking. Many a sermon has been written about how churches should build bridges. North Point is doing that I suppose, but they are also building a literal bridge. A really, really big bridge. A five million dollar bridge. Tidy sum, Mr. Bigglesworth.

Andy Stanley’s church has a little traffic problem. If you’ve ever traveled along North Point Parkway on Sunday morning you’ll know what I mean. They have two four lane roads leading from North Point into their massive parking lots. But even with that, when you have thousands of parishioners coming and going, it gets to be too much. So according to a letter from Stanley on the church website, they have spent nine years studying ways to address the traffic. As I see it, the biggest problem they face is one of geography. Their property backs up to Big Creek. In all of Alpharetta there are only a handful of places to cross Big Creek. There’s about to be another one.

So the plan is to build a three lane bridge connecting one of their parking lots to another. The second parking lot is in a business park just off Old Milton Parkway. The bridge will cross Big Creek, the Big Creek Greenway and a thousand feet of flood plain.

I really don’t know what to think of this. The church my wife and I attend is in the midst of a capital campaign. There was some push back when they started due to worries about the economy. But we’re not trying to raise nearly this much money. We also have a comparatively boring goal of reducing debt. No bridges for us, well just the figurative ones for now.

There also the sticker shock aspect of this. Five million dollars is huge. What could that do in this community? To put it in perspective… North Fulton Community Charities has a yearly operating budget of $4 million. I’m sure they could do amazing things with a $5 Million capital campaign.

On the flip side, North Point’s mission is “to be a church unchurched people love to attend.” They feel that the unchurched are not likely to attend if they can’t make it into the parking lot. There’s probably a lot of truth to that.

At the end of the day, Alpharetta’s largest megachurch is having problems scaling. This bridge is certainly a solution. I trust that they have prayerfully considered this decision so I’m not going to pass judgment. I’ll leave that to my readers. Is this a boondoggle or worthy effort to get non-believers into pews?

Church BBQ Fundraiser – Shiloh UMC

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

I haven’t written about barbecue yet, but I’m always on the prowl for it. One little known secret to finding good Q is to look for the church BBQ fundraiser. You’re not gonna find this at the mega churches in the burbs so be ready to head into the country a bit. Typically it is a yearly thing where some good old boys in the congregation stay up all night smoking some swine. The next day they sell plates or sandwiches with homemade sides to locals in the community. The quality of the Q may be hit or miss, but you might find a hidden gem. Worst case, you helped to support a small country church.

I haven’t seen a lot of this around our parts, with the exception of this little church. I’ve driven by Shiloh United Methodist Church when they were having their yearly BBQ lunch but never stopped. Shame on me. The other day I caught wind that they were planning the event for this Saturday. Here’s the details:

What: 31st Annual Shiloh UMC BBQ

Where: 4946 Shiloh Rd, Cumming, GA 30040

When: Saturday May 1, 11:00am until 4:00pm

Yesterday I exchanged a few e-mails with the pastor of the church, Alisha Burch. This is an older church with a rich history in south Forsyth. Their BBQ event has been going on for a long time, 31 years as far as they can remember. I was disappointed to learn that the BBQ is catered this year. In the past it was cooked by members of the congregation, but this time the meat will come from Smokejack. However, Pastor Burch assures me that they make their own sauce… with added “deliciousness” as she says. That’s good enough for me!

If you know of other country churches planning BBQ events, by all means leave me a comment!

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