April 15, 2019
At a recent meeting, one of the assignments for our dinner conversation was to answer the question, “Name one thing that you cannot live without.” Given the occasion, many of the answers were frivolous and funny e.g. chocolate, hot water, the ocean etc. It is a question worth pondering seriously and also in turn asking in the context of our life as a congregation, “Name one thing that our congregation cannot live without.”
Personally, after we get past the life-saving items (food, water, shelter), the answers should reflect things that are truly important in our life: our family, friends, and yes, most importantly, our faith. Obviously, whatever we think we cannot live without is where we should spend our time and treasure. Experience shows that problems arise when these areas are not nurtured.
Likewise, I imagine that if we asked the question at a vestry retreat or at an annual meeting the responses may include that our congregation cannot live without the priest, the musician, the building, the Eucharist. If it is the priest, are we supporting them and their families by ensuring the right compensation and time off to live a healthy life? If it is the building, are we good stewards of the property and can make the decision when its time to let it go? If it is the music, are we singing the hymns and reflecting on the words as we participate in the service or does our worship style resemble that of a concertgoer waiting to be entertained? If it is Jesus’ body and blood (the Eucharist), once administered, are we following the Great Commission to spread the word?
Another way that this question gets posed to congregations, especially in the context of evangelism - would the community miss the church if it ceased to exist or is the church something the community can live without? Our knee jerk answer to this question is yes, of course we will be missed, we feed the hungry, we host the AA meeting each week! How sure are we though? Can the services we provide be gotten elsewhere? Let’s prayerfully do our best, always look for ways to improve and with God’s help the blessings will be provided.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths – Proverbs 3:5-6