After returning from a month away with my husband, I began to ponder what I could share with faith formation colleagues. I thought intergenerational ideas might be good (as I currently have no young children and few youth) or a reflection on “What is Church”? I decided on the latter after our interim, Pastor Dave, gave a sermon entitled: Christianity 101: The Statement of Faith “You call us into your church... (Click here for the entire UCC Statement of Faith)
So what is church? As a young child, I attended church after being baptized in what then, was the Congregational Church. I attended Sunday school most Sundays. My parents decided to join the Episcopal Church through confirmation. My siblings and I were all confirmed and we grew up as Episcopalian. Both my parents were very involved in church activities and gave us a firm faith foundation. My father was head deacon and my mother volunteered as Director of Christian Education. I don’t think that I really thought about what the true definition of what church was as a child.
Fast forward: Marriage to Ralph, the birth of our son John, leaving the Episcopal church and coming full circle back to the church of my baptism, now the United Church of Christ. I became a member of South Britain Congregational Church (SBCC) 12 years ago. This where I learned the true definition of “church”. It is not just a “building for public and especially Christian worship.” The Church, as in the New Testament, is the Ekklesia, meaning “the called out ones”. I interpreted this to mean that we are all called to follow Christ’s teachings.
Taking care of the church building and its daily running is challenging in this day and age. Pastor Dave told a story of a 300 year-old church in Switzerland. He began the story with “You call us into church. And when we don’t attend, when we do not answer Christ’s call, the fellowship is diminished”.
His story continued. The church was built when the congregation could not afford lights or candles for their evening services. So the tradition evolved that when folks attended, everyone brought their own light (candle) to the service. One Christmas Eve a visitor came for the Christmas eve candlelight service.
When he arrived the church was completely dark. As he was about to leave, he saw a light in the distance and another light and then another light coming down the paths leading to the church. They came from all over placing their lanterns, illuminated with a candle, on iron hooks throughout the church. Soon the sanctuary was ablaze with light. Can’t you just picture your place of worship experiencing this wonderful light? After the service the visitor said to one of the members, “This is the most unusual tradition I've ever seen.” The member responded, “We’ve done it for over 12 years. We can afford lights and lanterns, but we like the symbolism of everyone bringing their own light. For you see, if someone isn’t here, we can say to them with integrity, we missed your light. The glow of the sanctuary was diminished because you were not here.”
I was so moved by this story as South Britain Congregational Church celebrated our 250th birthday. I can picture in my mind our past and present congregation keeping a tradition going. We at South Britain are blessed with members of all ages who bring the light of their talents and abilities to use them in Christ’s service to and for others. The following comes to mind: the Knit Wits and their annual Victorian Tea, the Apple Festival, diaper collections, a community vegetable garden, donations to the food bank, Easter Baskets for Covenant to Care and most recently, a Coffee House to benefit SMART (Southbury Middlebury Acting Responsibly Together), and so much more that we do.
Church to me is the people, no matter where they meet. We are all disciples of Christ called out to do his work. The United Church of Christ Statement of Faith tells it all. I hope you will take the time to read and reflect on it, if you haven’t recently.
Closing Thought: Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church isn’t what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human networking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church!
Ms. Krista L. Judson is the Director of Faith Formation for the South Britain Congregational Church, in Southbury, CT. and a member of the CAUCE Coordinating Committee.
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