January 21, 2008


A church that has lasted for 250 years has undoubtedly changed over those years. In our church, the magnitude of change in just the past four years is palpable. The place looks different, sounds different, even smells different. Those of us in leadership positions during these years have had a vision of what the change might produce, but the pastor’s vision alone is not enough. So last week, I asked our student deacons to say what was unique about our church as compared to all the other ministries present in our community.

They said that our church is:

• Accepting of very different beliefs, practices, traditions
• More open to others – on basis of Christianity, but not specific doctrine
• Affirming of other believers in the community
• More about learning from than instructing others
• Comfortable for “straddlers” – a place where the very religious and secular come together
• A place filled with translators – those who explain faith, who can translate from religious language into an everyday vocabulary and vice versa
• Accessible physical space – don’t have to go looking far from campus
• A “church” versus a “group”
• Church and fellowship together
• More than just undergrads
• Welcoming – easy to get involved or not
• One that lacks “requirements” that can be a barrier to participation
• Not a limited group
• One with clear “adult” leadership
• Marked by a variety of worship: consistent enough to be comfortable, different enough to stretch
• Allows for balance in life – does not demand all your time
• A place where aesthetics and Spirit are important: making things beautiful

My heart sang when I heard what they said. To see our church – any church – this way is to see a vision of what can be. We are not perfect. As the Presbyterians say: “The Church of Jesus Christ is the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all of humanity.” I put the emphasis on “provisional.” Who we are now is not who we will, or should, always be. But we do have a vision of who we are called to be in this time and place, and that is shaping the way we see ourselves, the world around us, and God.

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