When I was a member of Central Baptist Church of Wayne, Pennsylvania, we went through an interim period of about a year and a half in the mid‐1990s when the church was between pastors. During the previous decade, our church was led by a visionary pastor who provided strong direction. After he left, the church was very intentional about going through a slow and careful discernment process about its own ministry priorities. What parts of the congregation’s identity and activities were primarily the previous pastor’s vision, and what parts truly belonged to the congregation? I thought this discernment
regarding the congregation’s mission was essential. The church needed to be clear about who it was; then it could open itself to the leadership of a new pastor whose vision would compliment the congregation’s sense of its calling.
I was reminded a bit of this experience during the past month, as I have had different opportunities to see our congregation in action during Pastor Rick’s sabbatical month. Although Rick’s absence during the month of January certainly isn’t the same as an interim pastorate, the change in my responsibilities during these weeks has invited me into aspects of this congregation’s activity that I don’t experience as much in my usual role. I’ve enjoyed participating in Tuesday morning Bible studies, planning and leading worship, preparing the Midweek Message, and other tasks that aren’t normally on my plate. But
what I have appreciated most has been gaining a more intimate perspective on the way members of our congregation care for one another.
The members of our church’s Congregational Care Task Team play a primary role in coordinating our church’s effort to minister to one another. I appreciated having the opportunity to sit in on that team’s brainstorming session about how we can minister more effectively to the seniors in our congregation, and then to be in the council meeting as the team reported back. But it’s not just the members of that team. I am touched by how you pray for one another, visit those who can’t be with us on Sundays, check in on one another with phone calls and emails, provide rides to make sure people who don’t drive can get to worship, and so much more. I have long appreciated the strong sense of mission outreach that characterizes this small congregation.
But in the last month, I have gained a renewed appreciation for all the ways the members of this congregation care for one another. The early church historian Tertullian, writing near the end of the second century, reported that what observers found most striking about the early church was the way people cared for each other. He reported that the Romans used to marvel at the Christians and exclaim, “See how they love one another!” I’ve thought the same thing several times this month as I have sat with different members of our congregation. I’m moved by the ways you seek to care for one another. If you listen to my conversations with the kids on Sunday mornings, you probably already know that I think this is pretty close to the heart of the gospel.
“What’s most important?” they asked Jesus.
“Two things,” he responded. “Love God, and love others.” May we continue to grow in our ability to live more fully into that invitation.
Minister with Children, Youth, and Families