I write following a delightful visit to one of our sister Fellowship churches in New Jersey. Bound Brook Congregational Church, pastored by Rev. Andrew Smith hosts two services each Sunday including an early morning contemporary and later traditional service. Pastor Smith delivered a passionate message challenging us to use the spiritual gifts God has given each of us to further the Kingdom. He noted that he had a responsibility to share God’s word (“prophetic preaching”) and, that at times, this includes words that make us feel uncomfortable. But, one cannot water down the word and remain accountable to God. Pastor Smith has high hopes of re-growing the church as do many of our sister churches. Like many of us who have served congregations, he finds this task difficult given our times. Conversing with other participants, I did sense optimism, energy, and a vision for a new day. Carl Schmidt, the church delegate to the Fellowship Executive Committee introduced me to several members including two energetic youth directors. He, a member of the Board of Directors of the local Brook Theater shared his excitement of a growing interest for theater in the church through the youth programming. He is quite hopeful that young people and families will find a home at Bound Brook through theater, music and good preaching. Bound Brook is also facing some serious building maintenance issues as are many of our sister churches.
I believe many of you have heard me share words of hope and vision for our churches. I have really enjoyed visiting many of you this summer with growing concern for many congregations who have found attendance dwindling. Yes, we all realize that this is due in part to the ongoing pandemic. However, one must think about the post-pandemic days to come. What does this look like? Will things normalize (whatever that might look like)? Will members return to regular attendance? Optimistically, I think there are great opportunities ahead. However, I believe all of us need to be ready to accept the fact that we will not return to “business as usual.” We need to prayerfully reflect on the church’s future engagement in community… to recognize we need to think outside the box (or perhaps color outside the lines). What will we do? How will we engage? How can we share Christ’ message to the world in a new-age language (and technology) that people will listen to and connect with? How will technology fit in? The task at hand is to start asking the questions… to start discussing them within the leadership in the church… and yes, to accept the fact that we will need to do church much differently. As a friend once said, “while the message of the gospel remains the same, the delivery process must change to meet the ever evolving social construct.” What might this look like in your church within your community? How might you represent yourselves as the body of Christ… his hands and feet… in our twenty first century?
Until next time, may your journey through Advent begin with great hope for an amazing world filled with love, joy and peace. May you be blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit with an abundance of love that surpasses any other.
In His Service,
Rev. Dr. Irven A. Gammon