By The Rev. Wendy Vander Hart
Associate Conference Minister
Thanksgiving holiday has included a new tradition in my family. My parents live on four and half acres of land in rural New Jersey and their home is heated in large part by a wood burning stove. So for the past three years splitting wood has become a vital practice and part of our holiday festivities. I have taken many a turn with my siblings running the hydraulic splitter and this year we probably split four cords of wood. Split the wood, pass it down the line, stack it in the shed – repeat! There is great satisfaction in being clear about what you are called to do and enacting it.
Many of our churches struggle with being clear about what they are called to do and enacting it. Granted being Christ’s church is not as easy a task as splitting wood but there is something to be said for the simplicity of becoming clear about the one thing you are called to do and doing it well.
My mantra in preaching this season has focused on clarity of mission and purpose. In a Twitter world our churches need to be able to sum up their mission and purpose in the 140 characters of a tweet! So I have been telling the stories of some of our churches who can tweet their mission and purpose – the discipleship church, the good neighbor church, the blessing church, the testimony church. In a simple phrase like “the blessing church,” you can sense how that church understands God’s call upon them in the neighborhood where they are situated.
I learned this lesson best in visiting a non-UCC church this summer. When I approached Highrock Church in Arlington for the 9:15 a.m. service on Labor Day weekend I was surprised to find a line of people outside of the door waiting to get in! In a brochure in the pew and throughout the worship service their mission was stated in this way, “In a word, Highrock is about transformation.” They are the transformation church. For Highrock this means that “we as individuals, and collectively as a body, become more Christ-like in every facet of our lives.” In my travels, the churches that can clearly state the mission/purpose God has laid on them are the churches that are vital and thriving.
Compared to many of my days in ministry, a day spent splitting wood was refreshing because of the laser focus on the work that lay before us. Might it be the simplicity of being clear about the mission and purpose God has in mind for each of our churches that breathes life into our communities? I pray we dare to find out!