On Sunday afternoon the church family of Centenary United Methodist will join together to set goals for being (becoming?) a Vital Congregation. In deference to tradition...food will be served.
Vital Congregations is a movement within the United Methodist Church that is intended to energize our entire denomination. Like so many mainline denominations we find ourselves generally in a state of stagnation or decline. People are drawn in so many different directions - work, school, activities, commitments - we must find new ways to connect. If doing things the way we have always done them was working...worship would be standing room only. And that isn't the case.
So - do the definitions above apply to church? Should they? Can they?
#1 - exuberant physical strength or mental vigor. It sure CAN apply to the church! There are a great number of people out there who are hurting and feel alone. We can stand up against injustice. We can help care for our neighbor. We can. Will we?
#2-capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence. I hope and pray this is true for our church. I have no doubt that the church as a whole will continue on - God is no wimp. If we don't step up, he will use others to keep his message of love going without us. Do we as a congregation have the capacity for survival? We should. Will we?
#3 - power to live or grow. Oh yes. I believe in this with my whole heart. Sometimes we go through winter - but then the spring comes... Allow me a tangent here: Last week our church lost a wonderful and faithful member, Mr. Tommy Wooldridge. In addition to being a bass in the choir and the Sunday School superintendent (among many other tasks through the years) - Tommy took great care of the church grounds. He turned every possible corner into beautiful gardens. And he spent many hours every week weeding, transplanting and mulching. On Thursday the JIFF boys groups spent time working in those gardens in honor of Mr. Tommy. I was working with a team that was taking the old growth off of some mums. At first glance all the boys could see was the dead wood...they figured we would just pull the whole thing up and be done with it. Then I pointed out the robust new growth at the base. One of the boys said "from that little patch of green a whole new plant will grow?" I assured him that it would. He carefully removed the old growth and is looking forward to seeing what comes next.
I'm not suggesting that we have to remove all of the old from our church...but maybe we have to get past the old way of thinking...to get to the new growth underneath. Let the sun shine down on it and see what happens in the spring!
#4 - a vital force or principle. I believe there is no more vital principle than what the mission statement of the church conveys - to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." And I especially like the vision statement of the Virginia Conference: "We envision faith communities where all God's people are welcomed at table nurtured and transformed to be Christ to others in the world."
I'm excited to brainstorm about ways that we can be a Vital Congregation. I'm ready for spring.