The Christian Church in America is declining in numbers, as reported by the pollsters and others who watch for trends in American life. They know the Church is connected to families and that the church influences families. They know it influences individuals, too. They guess at why people are absent from church at those times when it “gathers” together.
Back in the last decade of the 20th century the public press was interested in what the church did. When we celebrated our centennial Thanksgiving as the President’s proclamation urged us to do, the press was interested that the church had a “pilgrim family” dressed in the costumes of the Pilgrims of Plymouth back in the 1620s. And that they brought out the “Tything Man” who went about with his pole with a feather on one end and a brass knob at the other for him to tap sleeping parishioners awake during the service, and that a public official was invited in to read before the congregation the Governor’s Proclamation calling the people to gather to thank God for their many blessings. It was a public occasion and the newspapers and TV cameras came and gave those services their attention. And they were following the teen-aged boy, in Pilgrim dress, marching through Edina’s near neighborhood with drums beating as in Pilgrim days, “drumming” the people to worship.
It was a festive occasion, and the public paid attention and our Pilgrim drummers often made the fold page of the next day’s newspapers.
Visitors came, to see the celebration and learn what they could about God as vital witnesses of their life and faith. They came out of curiosity and often returned on other Sundays to see what these modern Pilgrims were all about.
All through the years there were holy moments like candlelight on Christmas Eve, communion on Christmas Day, a quiet “Watch Night Service” on New Year’s Eve, the quiet commitment times of Ash Wednesday, the wonder of Holy Week, Good Fridays’ Last Words of Christ led by ministers from across the community as well as the glory of Easter Sunrise Service outdoors at Cornelia Park. We experienced again the call of the cross “on a hill far away.”
Pentecost became another anticipated celebration. Memorial Day too, giving us a chance to honor those who died for their country. Even the 4th of July’s Independence Day allowed us a chance to honor the faith foundations of our country’s birth.
We came as a gathered company on so many days that reminded us of Jesus’ critical place in our life as people.
Those, and many other occasions, called us to “gather by the river” and declare that we were Jesus’ people with a peculiar privilege of showing our fidelity as faith brethren and faith workers in these modern days.
So, a host of memories were held in our hearts each Sunday as we came together and found ourselves greeting each other with the embrace of brothers and sisters in the great enterprise of our common faith that bound us together as a true family, a “company of love” – exactly what Jesus said we were to be. Every person sitting near us in our “meetinghouse” reminded us of the community we were. Of high moments shared and deep times experienced in our life together.
Each week we are surrounded by the beloved faces and tender memories. And as we greet each other we are remembering – even the relationships where hurts were healed by deep forgiveness, and the anger passed and now is healed.
Oh, the church is, in our real lives, a “many-splendored thing.” And when we sing “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love,” we know that something Divine lives in us and between us.
We are “a blest communion” – “like that above.”
Oh, God bless the church, that surrounds us with miracle, and upholds us in love.
That’s the great commandment that Jesus gave us: “Love each other.” What a privilege and joy to be part of such a company.
Praise God, and bless His Name!
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
|Arthur Rouner Ministries||
ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. . ."