Archive for ◊ September, 2011 ◊

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• Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

If you have grown up in and stayed involved with a particular congregation for all or most of your life, the affiliation you feel is first and foremost to your personal experience in that specific setting.  In your mind and heart, your congregation has a clear identity all its own which it has nurtured and exercised for many years.  You may be known in your community as the “mission church”  or the church who has that great Christmas Bazaar every year.  Maybe yours is the breathtaking sanctuary where every bride dreams of getting married, or the fellowship hall where AA has met for decades. The primary emotional, and even spiritual, angst people feel around the concept of merging with another community of faith  is that your church could lose that unique identity which its members value so highly.

Another primary emotion  church members experience when considering a merger is the same one felt by folks who must leave their building for any reason.   Like a home,  a church building can become an anchor for its members.  Bolstered by vivid memories of personal and family events, our attachment to the physical space can be every bit as powerful as our attachment to each other.  Sometimes, more so.  We sit in the same pew every Sunday and have the same view of worship every Sunday.  We have memorized the backs of the heads that sit in the pew in front of us.  We know which kid always kicks the back of the pew in which we sit when he or she becomes bored with the service.  Myriad family connections exist in memorial gifts and commemorations and stained glass windows.  We have worked tirelessly to keep the pews polished and the altar cloths clean and beautiful.  This is our place, our spiritual home and in many ways, our emotional home as well.

In an ideal merger, two congregations will both give up their physical homes and move into a new home which is evenly shared by all.  That sounds good, but what happens when we sit down in a strange seat with a new view?  When we don’t recognize the backs of people’s heads or their faces either?  Will we miss Little Joey banging his feet on the back of our pew?   The truth is we will  miss little Joey.  And we will miss trying to see around Mable’s fluffy head of hair and Sam’s balding noggin.  We miss all of that because it is familiar and warm and meaningful to us.

However, our missing what is familiar is a small price to pay for doing what we believe God is calling us to do.  In every major, life-changing decision a church makes,  the congregation must have the opportunity to work together to discern where God is calling them to be and with whom God is calling them to join their journey.  Without the assurance and confidence, on the part of both congregations,  that God is calling us to join with each other, we will not fully engage in the merger and it will not work.

Category: Miscellaneous  | One Comment
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• Sunday, September 11th, 2011

There’s a popular term these days regarding supporting one’s church: Donating Time, Talent or Money.

What great phrasing to acknowledge that caring for your religious community can be so much more than opening a checkbook.

Grace Church in Framingham – the church that I grew up in – has never been an affluent church. There are a lot of churches in my town that can boast a wealthy membership, but at Grace, we’re plain working folks. Which is fine; we may not pledge huge amounts, but we care a lot and are willing to share our time and talent.

Supporting your church is no single approach. Sure your pledge is critical and appreciated, but what good is it if no one will serve as an usher, your choir has no singers, there is no coffee during fellowship hour, or no one greets visitors at the front door?

Sharing your time and talent with your church is gratifying. In helping your church, you feel good (rightly so!) – and you become part of the fabric of your religious community.

What many congregations forget is that the joy of community is not limited to one hour on a Sunday morning. No I’m not saying that we don’t need a Sunday morning service. Far from it. What better way to start a week that with the firm foundation of a wonderful and inspiring Sunday morning service.

However, your religious experience is also enriched by the sharing of your time and talent – even just a little. Bake bread for the Holiday Fair, tote a few boxes for the Yard Sale, help fold Sunday bulletins, visit a shut in, serve on a committee, stuff envelopes or make calls.

Anytime you take on a church task in the company of fellow church members, you are forming a special bond within your church; you are part of a deeper, more caring congregation.

So go to church on Sunday morning and write that pledge check – please! But don’t discount the importance of your time and talent in supporting your church family. The rewards are inspiring for both your religious community – and for you.