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Where chasms separate, belonging can seem like a luxury

Faithbridge has been growing. That’s a blessing.

I remember lean years when a handful of us met in the great room at the Myers Ridge Community Center on Sunday and in living rooms for Bible studies and prayer meetings throughout the week.

In our membership class a few weeks ago we had 14 people in attendance. Back in those lean years, 14 folks was a decent turnout for a Sunday worship service.

One thing we do when folks join the church is give them a membership certificate signed by them and one of our ministers, along with a frame for it.

The first two words on the certificate are “I Belong.”

Those are important words to people. In an increasingly divided society, where chasms separate us and gadgets isolate us, belonging can seem like a luxury.

In a town where many folks’ fathers didn’t stick around to raise them and much of the divisive blather convinces folks they’re victims and unwelcome, finding a true sense of belonging can bring about an unexpected, warm, pleasant, yet foreign sensation.

Many people don’t expect to find belonging in much. Online digital life – virtual reality – is a poor substitute.

It’s certainly not the Pulaski Club, the Federation of Eagles or bowling league of old where people got together face to face weekly and forged friendships that lasted years, often resulting in families vacationing together and spending holidays together. This era is quite different.

Church, if folks have given it any thought at all, mainly seems like a spectator event. Folks with collars and suits or robes serve and perform mysterious religious endeavors on behalf of the gathered, and a precious few – perhaps the somehow better or more holy – are included in some tasks.

Faithbridge’s membership certificates serve as a map of personal growth and commitment. It spells out the church family’s obligations to invest in the member and find a place where their gifts can be used.

We tell folks membership is a heart condition. The first and most important step is sensing God leading you to become a member.

We take membership seriously, as an office of the church, a biblical role, spelled out in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, describing churches as being made of many members forming one body.

People are welcome to be attenders in perpetuity, but membership announces we are the body through which God will see you discipled into a growing, reproducing Christian who will grow enough to invest in those arriving down the road a bit, helping them find their own sense of belonging.

The biggest point of the certificate itself is to celebrate the belonging.

Especially now, post arrival of the pandemic and the increased isolation it brought about, celebrating the fact that people are welcome and their belonging is something we all, including them, cherish, seems more important than ever.

The frame?

That’s partly for them to have a handy reminder that they have a diverse family of believers where they matter.

It’s also for their neighbors. We hope they’ll have it in a prominent place, perhaps their front room, where a person feeling isolated and in need of belonging might see it and ask a question or two.

We trust that if they do ask, the member will be happy to share about the belonging they’ve found.

Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in Stowe.


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