• December

    The Friedens’ Church Council has recommended the following as a statement of focused mission:
    Friedens’ Mission:  To share the love of Christ.
    With Focus:  In our second century of church life we will prayerfully commit to:
    1.         STAYING FOCUSED on our mission through welcoming, inspiring and meaningful WORSHIP.
    2.         GOING DEEPER in DISCIPLESHIP as the means of spiritual transformation to become the people Christ calls us to be.
    3.         REACHING WIDER with Christ’s love into the COMMUNITY through service in our LOCAL SCHOOLS.
    So, why is this statement being offered for the congregation’s consideration and input?  Over the last year the church council and ministry teams and others have shared in a variety of conversations regarding renewal of Friedens’ vitality in a new century.  One of the lessons we have learned is that congregations with the best chance for vitality are those that stay focused on their mission.
      Why are these three topics highlighted in this statement of focused mission?   The members and friends of the church who have shared in these discussions believe that these three topics represent essential activities:  worship, discipleship and service.  In other words, if we fail to practice these activities we cease to be a church of Jesus Christ.
    The last two months I wrote about worship and discipleship, this month service. All of us can agree that service to others is essential to the Christian way of life, but why service focused in local schools? There are a few reasons but let me focus on the most important from my perspective. Perry Township has been undergoing a transformation in recent years, it is still a good place to live and to be a church, but as one of our teachers put it, “Perry Township has become more urban than suburban”. Our neighborhood has become more diverse socio-economically, culturally and ethnically. These changes can be enriching and they can also be challenging as we learn to live, work and learn with one another in a spirit of respect and appreciation. Our local, public schools have become the place we come together to learn that respect and appreciation and it is also the place social services are most often made available to our needy neighbors. As we partner in local schools we can help to positively influence our community, reaching out our hands in service so that everyone in our community rises to their highest potential. In our schools: we can tutor at-risk students, feed hungry students, help students learn English, assist and appreciate teachers who are often over-worked and under-paid, and by our actions bring the accepting and reconciling spirit of Christ to classrooms with increasingly diverse students. In short, partnership with local schools holds the potential for making the biggest difference for good in our community.
    Some have described this statement of focused mission like a stool with three legs. If one of the legs is missing the stool falls. This statement insures that service in the community will continue to be strong at Friedens UCC, helping the church stand strong.
    So, what are your thoughts about this statement of focused mission, especially the third topic of service in local schools?  Do you need further clarification? Would you like to add or subtract an idea or two? I’d like to know what you are thinking.  I’d like to invite your prayerful consideration of this statement.
    Your partner in sharing the love of Christ, Pastor Marc
  • January and February

    So far the pendulum of cultural change has not started back in the direction of the church.  Continuing studies reveal the decline of church life in America.  Here is one way to demonstrate the change:  for the first time, the group of Americans who identify as having no religious affiliation out-numbers the total number of those who identify as Catholic and Protestant in America.  This is a startling reality and a big challenge for churches to tackle.  Please know, we are not without hope for a vital future but we do need to be realistic.  Part of that realism is finding ways beyond membership growth to identify signs of vitality.  At a recent conference some realistic vitality markers were offered.  They include:
    • Vital churches in the 21st century extend an extravagant welcome.  To counter the widely held belief that churches are judgmental, we need to lift up and truly live our slogan—no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey there is a place for you here.
    • Vital churches in the 21st century practice humility.  To counter the widely held belief that churches are hypocritical, we need to be honest about our shortcomings and welcome others to help us do better.  Keeping the focus on the distinguishing and essential characteristics of church life—worship, discipleship and service—will go a long way toward showing we practice what we preach.
    • Vital churches in the 21st century have fearless conversations.  To counter the widely held belief that churches are irrelevant, we need to be willing to talk about the topics that really matter.  A commitment to the teachings of Jesus is a wonderful way to shine a light on meaning and purpose.  Jesus helps us explore the timeless and timely truths of faithful relationship, the power and proper place of money, discovery of true identity and destiny, and the values of a truly integrated life.
    • Vital churches in the 21st century make a difference in the community.  To counter the widely held belief that churches lack influence, we need to marshal our resources to transform lives in the community.  This is exactly why we are investing deeply in our local schools.  The diverse people, assets and needs of our neighborhoods are represented in our public schools.  Partnering to meet these needs demonstrates the power of churches who serve in Christ’s name and Spirit.
    I am thankful to see Friedens UCC already demonstrating these markers. As 2016 gets underway let’s double our efforts to renew vitality.  If we commit to the work of being Christ’s disciples, we can trust God to give the growth.
    With renewed hope and determination,
    Pastor Marc