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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Church Development Thoughts

Fourth United Presbyterian Church is a new church formed by uniting two old churches. The congregation of First United Presbyterian Church relocated as a result of this union, moving from the Knoxville College Campus about two miles away over to the corner of Glenwood and Broadway. The congregation of Fourth Presbyterian Church had mostly vacated the building by the time the two churches became acquainted with each other. But, there were 10 or 12 people still attending at 4th Presbyterian at the time. Whereas there were about 35 people participating at First United Presbyterian at the time of merger.

Within the first few months of our union, all but three members from Fourth Presbyterian Church had left our new church, but almost every one of those from First United Presbyterian remained with our new church. In fact, a few people who had been visiting at First United decided to join the new church as well.

At various points over the last year and a half at Fourth United, we have had visitors who became more or less involved in the life of the church. They are with us for a while and then move on. These visitations were positive experiences. Of course, we would like for a few of those who visit with us to join with us for the long haul. But, it is always nice to have someone who visits with you and shares the life of the church with you even if just for a time.

One reason our church doesn't "capture" new members too often is that we don't ask or expect a lot from visitors. Occasionally, there may be someone who doesn't feel welcomed because we are so low key. But,then a few people have just walked in, enjoyed the quiet welcome, and felt a sense of peace and good will and have stayed. I am one of those people who walked through the door of First United Presbyterian Church the first week of September of 1995. And, I have stayed all this time.

And, clearly there have been some changes in the congregational life over the years while we were First United Presbyterian and certainly in the past year and a half as we have been Fourth United Presbyterian.

We have younger church officers than when I first started. We have more babies, less youth. Less easy understanding of Presbyterian polity, and more need to have regular meetings to communicate over how to carry on the work of the church. Our congregation is much more active in participating in worship than formerly. That is, the singing is just much better and enthusiastic than in the past. Bible Study participation is a little less than in the past,though meetings continue to be very positive. Adult Sunday School is consistent, and perhaps better attended at times than in the past. The effort to establish a 3rd Wednesday Communion service at noon each month has not been too successful, but we continue to try as I am working with Rev. Patrick King,hoping to make this a community service and eventually provide a light meal for attendants. If you are able please come on Oct. 20 at noon as Anglican minister, Rev. King will be preaching and leading the service. I will be unable to be there because of my other job.

I'll only say one more thing about our new church development. Probably the most important thing our members and visitors and friends can do at this time is simply come whenver possible and join with us for services, Bible Study, Sunday School, Community Forums, 3rd Wednesday Communion. When you are a small group trying to make it, it is a great encouragement to just see people show up and to have people join you in worship, study and fellowship. As with any project, work, or effort to establish something new,the first thing is "showing up." The more people we have who are committed to showing up,the better off we are. But, talk like this usually ends up bringing on the feeling of pressure and provokes guilt in those who haven't been "showing up." And, our church has never been about that. If you don't show up, then, you still remain part of our fellowship. As I said, we are pretty low key. If you haven't been at worship for six months or a year or whatever,and you need some help, don't hesitate to call me or Rev. Allen or someone else. Don't feel like we've forgotten you if you haven't been around and we haven't checked on you for awhile. We don't tend to badger people. We don't ask a lot as I said. But, we are always glad to see those who come. We are encouraged by their/your expressions of faith, by their/your sharing of stories with us, and the sharing of a meal, a prayer and hug with us.

I hope we are doing something at Fourth United that will make people want to come and be a part of our worship and study and service on a regular basis, but whether regular or irregular we will be thankful to see you. Maybe one of the problems with a small church is that almost everybody has to be a regular, every Sunday participant to keep things going. If the church membership was larger, then you can have a core of regulars and a good number of less regular participants and it all works out just fine. For now, it would seem that our less regulars could help us get things going by being more regular until we get things going. And,then you less regulars will have served your role in our new church development and can start taking those "leaves of absence" again.

One thing about that. Not going to worship on Sunday can certainly be just fine. We don't go under compulsion to worship anyway. The only thing that concerns me about some of the patterns I have noticed over the years is that a signficant number of people take "leaves of absence" from church when they are in dark places, as if worshipping God was only something to be done when you are in the better places of life. This really worries both me and Rev. Allen. It indicates that we have not gotten through very well in our preaching that faith abides in the valley and on the mountain tops, and praise is a reality in the darkest times as well as brightest times. Sometimes I think that no matter what we preach, that the T.V. preachers are really the ones many people hear. And, the message of the T.V. preacher is generally one of health, wealth and success through faith. I know that some members or especially visitors may be a bit disappointed from time to time that Rev. Allen and I don't preach that gospel and hoot and holler about that kind of stuff. But, we do what we can to bear witness to the God of Jesus Christ, who calls us to be faithful, loyal, loving, just and merciful in our living whether it pays off with success in the world or not. It didn't pay off too well for Jesus in society as he ended up getting capital punishment, but God remembered his faithfulness and raised him to life outside the bounds of society. To live in faith, we must find a way to live outside the bounds and constraints and expectations of society even as we are part of society. To simply try to use religion to help us achieve the goals of success in our society is live within the bounds of society and under its constraints. Rev. Allen and I are trying to point to a better way - something they can't take from you when your bank account is gone, something they can't take from you when no one will take your side, something they can't take from you when disease runs you down. We aren't talking about escaping from this flesh and blood life and its challenges, but about experiencing within these earthen vessels the transcendent power of God, the power of the God who raises the dead, whose power is made perfect in our weakness. And, when you are in communion with that power of God, it brings a peace into life, and there may be some secondary benefits as well. But, seek you first the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God, and all these things you desire and need will fall into line one way or another as God becomes the one you need most of all. Amen.

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