For some reason I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic recently, so I have been looking back through some of my newsletter articles over the past (almost) eight years. Some six years ago I wrote a series of articles based on the vowels in our alphabet. I chose words that begin with each of the 5 vowels and “y” and wrote an article that was based on that word. For the next several newsletters, I’m going to revisit those articles.
Before I begin, I need to say that things have changed since 2008. As a matter of fact, they’ve changed a lot! So, these are not the original articles, but adaptations that fit our current situation here at Marshfield Christian Church.
So, we begin our survey of the vowels with the letter A. (I figure we should start at the beginning, right?) The word I’ve chosen is “about.” Because, I think it is foundational to know what church is about. What are we here for? What do we stand for? Why do we gather together, and what do we do when we gather? It’s all tied up in the question, “What is church about?”
For many years we Disciples were weak in this area. We didn’t have very good language to talk about our theological perspectives and our positions on social issues. All-too-often we’ve taken to describing our denomination by highlighting how we aren’t like other denominations, instead of having a clear vision for ourselves. We might say things like, “We practice a believer’s baptism like the Baptists, but also have communion every week.” We didn’t have a clear vision of what it meant to be a Disciple of Christ.
Now, that isn’t all bad. As a denomination we’ve prided ourselves on the diversity we allow in the “non-essentials” of belief. We have lived very fully into the phrase “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.” But, that has also cost us. It is hard work to sit around the table with people who have polar opposite opinions on any topic, let alone the topic of faith. But, that hard work is essential to creating a truly welcoming community.
Some years ago our General Minister and President, Sharon Watkins, unveiled a new statement of identity for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) This short statement helps us to know what we are about. It helps us define who we are in the wider community of believers. Our identity statement is this: “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.” Movement, wholeness, welcome and table; all are words that talk about who we are as churches and as a denomination.
That is well and good, but how does that statement for the denomination play into our lives here in our little corner of the world. Well, I believe you hear echoes of that identity in our mission statement here at MCC. I imagine you could all recite it with me, since we close worship every Sunday by saying these words together, “Journeying together with God we are Disciples of Christ, feeding our neighbors and ourselves through the Word of God.”
Six short years ago, we were unfocused. We didn’t know what we were about. Then through hard work and prayer, we have discerned that this is our mission. And we’ve begun to live into it! We are making God’s vision for us a reality. But that doesn’t mean we stop. Our lives and our mission as a community of faith are constantly unfolding before us.
To continue to grow into the people and the community to which God is calling us, we must keep asking ourselves, “What are we about?”