Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but
associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
– Romans 12:12-18
As we continue our life-long journeys of faith, all of us seek ways of being faithful in a world that is constantly changing, and we endeavor to promote the work of the church through our congregational life. However, as our congregation buzzes with activity through our Pastor Nominating Committee, our Faithful Innovation Team, and our Long-Range Planning efforts, it can be somewhat difficult for others of us to pinpoint the areas that would enrich our church’s life and ministry.
In her book Christianity for the Rest of Us, Diane Butler Bass has offered ten practices that might be helpful to us as we move forward in faith and follow our Lord into the future:
- Hospitality – welcoming strangers as we ourselves have been welcomed by God through the love of Jesus Christ.
- Discernment – listening for truth with our hearts and our souls, and asking what God is doing in our ministry.
- Healing – expressing God’s harmony by overcoming division and discord and mending what is displaced or broken. In doing so, we receive God’s healing grace and power, and because we are changed by God’s grace, we offer it back to the world.
- Contemplation – opening your heart for prayer and listening to God in silence.
- Testimony – talking the walk along the journey of faith. In their testimonies these people do not claim to have all the answers, but they ask many questions. They are seen as a way of telling and sharing our faith stories.
- Diversity – making community as a foretaste of heaven through people of many backgrounds and ages who encounter a God who is alive, personal, powerful and full of love for all humanity.
- Justice – engaging the powers by standing against injustice. Justice is spirituality, not a political platform or a denominational position on social issues. It is a pilgrimage, working towards the ideals of God’s reign on earth. It is part of being a Christian.
- Worship – experiencing God by inviting people to experience a sense of openness and attentiveness. Worship needs to be an experience of God, rather than a reflection about God. There is no particular style of worship or music that contributes to congregational vitality. Rather innovation and experimentation matter the most.
- Reflection – thinking theologically and reflecting on life. Instead of wanting answers, people in the emerging mainline are looking for places to ask questions, to learn new questions, and to be accepted by others in their faith community. They do this by thinking theologically, by using language, metaphor and insights from scripture, hymns, sermons, poetry, and literature.
- Beauty – touching the Divine through art, music and drama. Congregations can faithfully craft beauty through the arts, using gifts that open them to a way of understanding God that is beyond words.
Recognizing the variety of opportunities that are open to us, in what ways might we be able to contribute to the vitality of the church?