We have recently seen quite a flurry of visitors to our church on Sunday mornings! It is wonderful to see new faces and each one adds to the richness of our experience of worship.
I always enjoy greeting and meeting with our visitors after worship and learning a bit of their story. The story of each one of us creates the uniqueness of First Congregational Church.
Some visitors are honest enough to admit to me that they are “church shopping.” “I’m glad we made your list!” I always say in reply. I have no problem with this because it makes sense that people would want to sample what is out there. As I say, that’s honest. I would do the same.
This is, however, quite different than a generation ago. In times past, if you were Methodist, you went to the Methodist Church. If you were Baptist, you went to the Baptist Church. If you were Congregationalist, you went to the Congregational Church. It didn’t really matter if you personally connected with the pastor or the congregation. They wore your “uniform,” so to say, and you knew your team.
Today, denominationalism is falling by the way side. People come to our church from various church backgrounds or no background at all. To my mind, that’s the way it should be. We may lament there being too many different kinds of churches, but if you think about it there are so very many different kinds of people! Each person needs to find a place where they connect, where they feel fed, where they feel at home.
But, you say, why are there so many different churches if we are all basically talking about the same thing; worshiping the same God through the same Christ? The answer is that the different churches in our community are different colors on the same tapestry. We’re made of one fabric, but it would be pretty boring if the whole thing were all one color; absent any variation.
Or think of it this way: Your mom probably had the best recipe for something. Let’s say it was for chocolate chip cookies. When you were growing up, you LOVED those chocolate chip cookies! When you became an adult, she gave you the recipe and you were thrilled. But when you followed the recipe, the result wasn’t the same. It didn’t taste bad, it just tasted different. What happened? You call your mom and she says, “Well, that is just sort of a guide. I tweak things as I go. And it really depends on the kind of flour you use and the brand of butter…”
Christianity may feel to some like a formula or a recipe. And we do indeed have a “system of belief.” That said, we tweak things. We emphasize certain parts of the recipe and downplay others. And what emerges from the oven are indeed chocolate chip cookies but…they taste different. Not bad, just different. Some may even find them better than the original!
That, in a cookies and milk kind of way, is the origin and value of the different churches in our community and in the world.
So it is good to do some shopping because there are a lot of variations to the recipe out there. Personally, of course, I think we have the best chocolate chip cookies in town!
See you in church,