“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
This week, I will be working to prepare for the annual Fall Meeting of the Shenandoah Association of the United Church of Christ, which will be held at Grace U.C.C near Mt. Jackson this coming Sunday afternoon (after the Senior Citizen luncheon at Bethel). As the President of the Association Council, my job includes a lot of efforts to pull people and churches together.
You have probably noticed the phenomenon, in the last generation or so, of people not “joining” groups as much as they used to. Whether it’s the Junior Order or the Moose or church membership, there has been a generational shift away from committing ourselves to be a part of institutions larger than ourselves.
More than a generation ago (it may come as a shock to some of you, to see it put that way…) Bethel’s congregation agreed to a Constitution which commits us not only to being active members of our local congregation, but also to supporting AND PARTICIPATING IN the life and work of the Shenandoah Association of the United Church of Christ. Our Constitution states, “This church shall be a part of the United Church of Christ and it shall sustain that relationship to the United Church of Christ described in those portions of the Constitution and By-Laws of the United Church of Christ adopted July 4, 1961, relating to local churches.” (Article III, section 1). Our Constitution further states, “The [Bethel U.C.C.] Council shall recommend and the church shall elect members to serve as designated ‘Delegates’ to all regular and special meetings of the Shenandoah Association and Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ and any other ecclesiastical councils.” (Article VII— COUNCIL AND CHURCH BOARDS, section 14)
“Sure—” you may say. “He’s the preacher— he’s got time for all that extra religious meeting stuff.
I have too much to do already !”
Well, you would be right. You do already have too much to do. So do I.
The question is, “Which things does God really want me to do ?”
The following argument, attributed to one Patrick Keifert, bears repeating:
1. There will never be enough time in your life to do all the good that you think ought to be done.
2. There will be plenty of time to do all the good that God intends for you to do.
3. A regular practice of spiritual disciplines is essential to discerning the difference.
It regularly comes to my attention that many of you are sad that our church services are not packed full of people. Me, too.
Around our Shenandoah Association, I hear a lot of that— but I also get to hear stories of successes and joys. When we gather with our neighbor churches, we share examples of what works and what doesn’t work; we might cry on each other’s shoulders about good old days that we miss; and we can make constructive plans to do good things, as individual local churches AND TOGETHER, going forward.
It is up to each of us to not only “gather” our own self into worship and the work of the church and fellowship, but also to model for our families and our neighbors the JOY of gathering for Christ’s sake. Do we show our families and neighbors the benefits we experience by being part of something far greater than our own selves or our own natural families ? When we gather, joy may multiply.
How wonderful, how beautiful,)
when brothers and sisters get along !
- Psalm 133:1
(This also applies to our Elkton area churches.)
Coming to the UNITED Church of Christ out of another tradition, as I did, it seems to me that we in the UCC are especially blessed with Jesus’ good news mission, to tear down barriers between his followers and fulfill his prayer, “That they may all be one.”
For our Fall Association Meeting, we still have room for two delegates who are 30 years of age or younger, and also for anyone who would like to attend as a visitor. There you will have opportunities to fellowship and rejoice with believers from all around the region— to be a part of God’s gathering. Come! Or at least pray for us.