Last Christmas Sunday I attended the main Worship Service at Central Church. The Sanctuary was packed, but I saw quite a few faces that I did not recognize. Sure, some of them were out-of-town relatives who had come to Summit to celebrate Christmas with their family. But, some faces I did recognize, even though they seldom attend our Worship and have little apparent connection with CPC other than attending Christmas and Easter services. Some of us call them "C.E.O's", meaning Christmas and Easter only.
While some of these folks volunteer for charitable causes outside the church, and that is much appreciated, that usually happens in a secular context. It may be hard for them to connect that charitable activity directly with their faith. But, is that really so bad? We all must make choices in how we spend our time, even when we are not doing it selfishly.
But I wonder if there is some way for us to make these choices, and at the same time use our choices to strengthen and clarify our faith, by working through "the body of Christ", as some people call the church? It seems to me that extending ourselves to others in our church family, or working with other CPC members to extend ourselves to outside parties, has the advantage that we already share some important values with each other and can more efficiently "make a difference." Isn't this the essence of what Jesus sought in us? What can each of us do today to be more consciously participatory with other members of our church? How can we strengthen our community in Christ, stimulate our own spiritual journeys and fulfill our mission to bring others to Christ in a loving, supportive and safe manner.
What can each person do?
1.) Sit somewhere different in our Sanctuary each Sunday for the next eight weeks. Each week identify at least two individuals that you don't know, introduce yourself and Invite them to Take Ten for coffee after the service.
2.) When you see someone or a couple obviously new and unfamiliar with our Worship Service, introduce them to an Usher (Deacon) who will record their name and some contact information.
3.) Volunteer to be part of a CPC activity that makes you comfortably uncomfortable and creates an impact on others. Perhaps it could be working with the homeless, or at a food pantry, or being still and listening to a friend or colleague in an assisted living home.
4.) Demonstrate active listening that shows empathy towards others who may be unfamiliar to you.
5.) Become more self-familiar with the biases and assumptions that you possess, and do not let them interfere with your personal or church-member interactions.
6.) When you see someone standing alone while you are in a group, invite them to join you. The intentional act of invitation sends a powerful signal of inclusion.
7.) If you have a particular skill, interest or experience relevant to the programs of the CPC "body of Christ," be proactive as you seek to engage that gift. Do not wait to be discovered and asked. Make your interest and willingness to serve known to the leadership of the church.
Even a stable, long-standing congregation like CPC's can have more work to do to ensure that it's congregational culture continues to encourage strong participation by members. It doesn't "just happen." Our CPC participation must be more than just attending Worship on Sunday mornings, for an hour.
These thoughts are brought to you by the Adult Spiritual Education Team at CPC, hoping to encourage your personal spiritual growth this Fall.