15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16: 15-16
Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer
“A mission statement, in the very first sentence, should tell who the congregation believes God to be.” These words of wisdom came from a church leadership class at Union, taught by Ken McFayden. I began to think about the few churches that I was familiar with at the time and what their mission statements said– sadly, I couldn’t recall a mission statement that fit this description. This comment sat in the back of mind until I found myself sitting in the pew of First Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC almost a year later.
At the time of this particular visit, I was unemployed and looking for a temporary home until I was called by a church. I was frustrated with the way my job search was panning out and lonely in a new city where the only people I knew were my husband’s friends. This search for a temporary church home was harder than I expected because I couldn’t help but look at the little details of every congregation and worship service I visited. In the moments before worship, I opened up the bulletin (honestly, with little hope) and began to peruse what they had planned for the coming Fall and the welcome statement quickly caught my eye–
“First Presbyterian Church welcomes all who worship here. We honor and celebrate human diversity and unity that God gives us in Christ. We welcome individuals of every age, race, nationality, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and economic circumstance to participate fully in the life of the church.”
Right away, I knew that this was a statement that I could get behind and I settled in for worship. Several months later, I returned as a guest preacher and try to be involved as possible now that I have a call.
What might seem like a space-filler in the bulletin for some, serves as a window into the ministry of a congregation for others. In those moments before worship as a visitor sits and takes in their surroundings, they might find that “space-filler” and make up their mind right then and there whether this is a congregation and ministry they want to be involved with. In a world where so many are trying to find God, or a group that has similar beliefs about God, it is important that as a faith community we name and claim our own beliefs in a way that all who want to know, are able to know.
What does First Presbyterian believe about God? From that one statement, I gathered that they believe God is a welcoming God who created all of us to be different, yet One in God. God loves each one of us, and First Presbyterian is striving to do the same. This is backed up by the multiple activities offered throughout the week- worship, service and study alike. This is acted out in the warm welcome I received when I participated in a weekly book study earlier this year.
What does your welcome statement and/or mission statement say about who your congregation believes God is?
Is it easily found by visitors and members alike both on Sunday morning and during the week?
How does your congregation act out that statement?