(Absence, illness and inclement weather have cancelled our new members’ exploration three times. But during the delay, Michael keeps learning of more people interested in joining. So many God’s somehow behind our difficulty finding the time. At this point, we won’t be able to join the new members on Feb. 8, as we had planned. But once we get past the Annual Meeting on 01.25, Michael will get in touch with everyone he knows who is interested, and try and find a time. In other words, if you have been thinking about this, it’s not too late. Please speak with Michael.)
At Old First, we believe the church makes a difference. That’s not surprising, perhaps.
But people often wonder how that actually works. Our lives are busy. With a lot of demands on our time and attention and resources. How then does adding one more voluntary commitment make a difference?
People are particularly unsure how the liberal church — with its “meet your where you are” instead of high commitment demands — makes a difference.
Well, our church doesn’t tell you what’s right; instead, it exhorts, even expects you to ask those kinds of questions and develop your own answers. We know we won’t all see everything the same, and we accept that doesn’t mean some of us are sheep and somre are goats (to use Jesus’ idioms from Matthew 25). We’re not a church that makes black and white rules you need to adhere to in order to belong or be in good standing in this community. No long creed here of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.”
Rather, we are offered with general goals — like compassion, forgiveness, service, gratitude, foregiveness, generosity, justice, trust — and expected to figure out how to live these out in our lives. Conservative Christians sometimes question whether or not this system works. When as much is said to Michael, he always laughs and responds, “Well, look at Jesus’ ministry: he taught parables, and assumed that people would figure out what they meant in the specifics of their own lives.”
There has been much work in recent years in progressive churches how to understand these Christian values as “spiritual disciplines” on which we can work more intentionally. If you are interested, please speak to the pastor.
However you approach your church participation, Old First is a Christian community for your to belong to and be supported by. It’s also a community in which you can serve and support others. And where you have to work out the tough stuff with others in the context of our faith.
We believe church is about being shaped and challenged by this very human and imperfect community of Christians. We’re not a faith community of too many turn on the dime conversions; rather, we are a place where people change and grow over time. Along the way, we make mistakes. And need to be forgiven, and ask for forgiveness. Living, but in light of the Christian understanding of faith.
It’s these lessons reinforced over time — and even more so If you really commit yourself — from which you will start to see how you grow in trust, thanksgiving, humility, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, service… listening to others, particularly people you don’t quite understand… and faithfulness. It’s the ways we see God’s actions on us mediated by the church.
If you are interested in joining, know that you would be welcomed with great joy. Please speak with the pastor if you have any questions. And it’s perfectly fine to check out the class and decide now’s not the time to take on membership. It is a commitment, though perhaps more of a personal one than communal one…