Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thinking about new church development at 4th United Presbyterian

One thing about doing something new is that you get to make it up as you go along. And, in a new church development, there is really some of that “making it up as you go along.” But, there is always something very “old” in every genuine “new” church development. What we hope to develop has a living tradition almost 2,000 years old. And, with our connection to the faith of Israel, an even longer living tradition. Those of us who seek to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth do so as the “contemporaries” of the first disciples. That “old” tradition is experienced as “new” and relevant in our lives. So, this vital connection to the tradition of faith means there is something very old and deeply embedded in any true new church development. As we hear the Word of the Living God: “Behold, I make all things new,” we are humbled and hopeful, realizing that it is God who is creating and redeeming in our lives and through our lives and in this “development” of a new mission.

Paul speaks of “the faith of Jesus Christ,” which may also be translated as “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” This is that wonderful union of humanity with God as a human being shows complete faithfulness to God, the Creator, and as God reveals his faithfulness to that human, Jesus, by raising him from the dead to be the head of humanity, the Lord of the earth, and declared for all the world as “the Son of God,” one with the very being of God. But, the revelation of God’s faithfulness to humanity goes even deeper than that. Because in Jesus, God is made known in human flesh. Both God’s will for humanity and God’s character are made known in Jesus. And, what is revealed is that Jesus came from God as the love and redeeming will and power of God on earth. “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son . . . ."

The “faithfulness of Jesus Christ” opens a way, a way of human beings living in peace and joy with God and each other. That is the way of Jesus Christ on earth. It was a way revealed in his life, suffering and death. It was a way that was shown to be undefeatable in his resurrection. When humans are reconciled with God, they are given to share in God’s eternal love and life.

So, this way of Christ is not something we are ‘making up as we go along.’ Nor, are we proclaiming some “new” gospel of God. What we are doing is bearing witness to this way in our midst. What we are doing is bearing witness to the ways of God which are always new among us. This old and living tradition is not primarily a set of beliefs passed down from generation to generation, nor is it primarily a set of rituals or precepts for living. No, it is a living allegiance and love for our God who remains faithful to human beings and to all the creation. It is an old way, but in this way, we attend to the ONE who makes all things new. It is the character of God to create new amidst the old, to bring life out of death, hope out of hopelessness, light out of darkness. It is our “attendance” to this living, moving Spirit of God that causes us to declare this a “new church development.” It is the newness of God’s Spirit moving among us. It is the fact that we have awakened to God’s calling that makes this a “new thing.” And, as we continue to experience God as the “God who raises the dead” and “the One who makes all things new,” we respond and realize a certain newness in our own spirits.

But, in taking part in a “new thing,” we are joining with all who are “attending” to the movement of God’s creative Spirit in the world. If we do something truly new, then it will reverberate in the faith of those other church’s around us. We will be mutually strengthened by each others faith. For, the truly new will ground us in the truly old. For, in the end, what we want to be is not so much a “new” church development, but a “true” church development.

The “newness” in our situation is that we have been shaken, turned around, displaced, so that we are seeing those around us in a new way, seeing the church’s mission in a new way, seeing ourselves in a new way. This is a “new” church development because we have departed from the old ways of “doing church” and are willing to learn from God a new way of “being church.” We are coming to understand this divine disruption of our lives as the coming of God’s costly grace into our lives and through us into the lives of others. Aren’t so many of the most wonderful gifts initially experienced as “disruptions” in our lives?

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