This is the second in a series of four blog posts looking at the Vision, Mission and Purpose statement drafted for a new, unified Conference. Delegates from the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences will vote on formally creating this new conference at the joint Annual Meeting June 15-16 in Springfield, MA.
The church’s foundation was literally rotting out from underneath itself, as the story goes. The church had built its sanctuary in the 1800s without a basement to make sure they would never be tempted to illegally hide escaped slaves. It was a reaction against their Underground Railroad congregationalist neighbors. So the beams of their wooden New England church sat in the damp soil for about a hundred and fifty years until it got so bad that the church had to undertake a multi-million dollar campaign to reconstruct its very foundation — this time with a basement.
In Luke 6, Jesus uses the image of a building’s foundation to explain the interplay of word and deed. According to his analogy, your solid foundation comes more from your action than your proclamation. If you’re just paying Jesus lip service without anything to back it up, well then watch out when the proverbial flood waters hit because that building will not hold.
This call to action makes sense coming from a savior who is described as the Word made Flesh. If we are the Body of Christ in the world, we’ve got to put a little meat on our faith. From all the Service Trips I’ve been on, I can testify that nothing builds muscle quite like digging a new foundation. Luckily, we have the opportunity to dig that new foundation together if we approach this new Conference with the right intention.
When Spring Glen Church in Hamden, CT recently celebrated the 60th Anniversary of our Sanctuary, we reflected on the slogan from the original capital campaign to raise funds for the building, “To the Greater Glory of God.” We took it as a poignant reminder that a building can be just building, or it can be a ministry. A life can be just a life, or it can be a ministry. A church can be just a church, or it can be a ministry. A Conference merger can be a bureaucratic quagmire, or it can be a ministry. We just need the right foundation.
Part of the problem is that the foundations for our denomination were laid when Jim Crow laws were the norm. The foundations for our denomination were laid when being gay was a felony offense. The foundations for our denomination were laid when DDT was a commonly used pesticide. As a result, some of the support beams holding up our church have been sitting in the damp soil of bigotry, pollution, and sin. Those beams are in desperate need of replacing. No matter how well-intentioned we might be as individuals, no matter how many historical firsts we claim, no matter how far we have progressed, our structure is still in need of a new basement.
“We commit to making God’s love and justice real by loving our neighbors, children, and all of creation through our collective work, such as seeking racial, economic, environmental, and LGBTQ justice.”
That’s a line from the mission statement for the proposed triune Conference. That statement there, that’s a different kind of foundation. That’s not your typical, unwelcoming, dank church basement. That’s a foundation that makes room for refugees of all kinds: with sanctuary for the immigrant and affirmation for the trans teen, where black lives matter and money-changers tables are overturned, accessible to each person’s physical or mental needs and sustainably carbon-neutral for all creation.
That’s God’s love. That’s God’s justice. That’s what God’s realm looks like, and the mission statement calls on us to make it a reality, to create a glimpse of Heaven here on Earth because it’s not enough to just pay Jesus lip service, we’ve got to back it up by doing the work.
Last year we voted to consider this Conference merger. So now, in our rotting beam analogy, we’ve started the renovation. We’ve got our church hoisted up off the ground ready to be restructured. Whether we vote yes or no on the merger details this year, it would be a waste of a sacred opportunity if we just put this church back down on the ground exactly as it was, without replacing any of those beams. It’s time to dig a new foundation together.”
Go to the Together, As One Updates page for the other blog posts in this series, and all the information related to the new Conference proposal.
The Rev. Jack Perkins Davidson is the Senior Pastor of the Spring Glen Church in Hamden, CT.
We invite users of this website to post comments in response to posts published here. In order to maintain a respectful community, we insist that comments be polite, respectful and tolerant of opposing viewpoints. We reserve the right to remove comments that are hostile, hateful or abusive to others, or that constitute personal attacks. In the interest of transparency, we highly recommend that users comment using their full names. For those who feel a need for more anonymity, however, we will allow posts using first names and last initial.