Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer
An individual going through the PC(USA) ordination process is responsible for being able to recall what seems like an endless list of definitions, facts, concepts, confessions, and political standards. After many grueling hours we (hopefully) feel confident enough to not only write exam responses, but also to go before a committee or presbytery to demonstrate all that we have learned during our time in seminary. A person in the pew, however, may not even know that we have more than one or two confessions or be able to list and explain the “Great Ends of the Church.”
I recently led a study for one congregation where I did a very quick overview of each confession that PC(USA) recognizes and was surprised to hear that this was the first time that several participants had ever cracked open a Book of Confessions. I began to wonder what we can do for our congregations so that they are aware of some of the “basics” of our denominational heritage.
This past weekend, I spent time with First Presbyterian Church in Goldsboro, NC where I saw a wonderful approach to set our denomination’s heritage in the sight line of anyone walking through the hall. Six beautifully painted canvases hung next to one another, and beside each hung an explanation of the painting. The individual pieces of artwork came together to display the six Great Ends of the Church.
I do not know for sure how these paintings are used in Christian education, but right away my own imagination ran wild as I thought about ways the younger generations could learn about the Great Ends in a way that would enrich their lives.. How can the session make a point to demonstrate each of the six Ends in all that they do? The ever-present paintings can serve as a jumping point and guide us as we claim our reformed heritage in new ways.
It wasn’t until I began the ordination process and started attending seminary classes that I began to work my way through our incredibly rich history. How can we bring the historical aspects of our heritage, commonly diluted down to a bullet point list, into our every day ministry so all of our members have the opportunity to dig deeper? How can we share our confessions, our foundations, and the thoughts of the theologians who helped to found our faith tradition in new and interesting ways?
The Six Great Ends of the Church:
1- The proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankind
2- The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the Children of God
3- The maintenance of divine worship
4- The preservation of the truth
5-The promotion of social righteousness
6- The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world
First Presbyterian Church in Goldsboro, NC is led by Interim Pastor, Rev. Leigh Gillis (M. Div., 1992). Learn more about their ministry and see how they share the history of the Presbyterian Church (USA) by visiting their website at http://www.fpcgoldsboro.org/.