In a recent conversation with a member of our congregation, I was asked why I think church is important. One possibility in a word: community.
Gathering together in a faith community, we begin to get to know one another. We support and are supported, we celebrate and are celebrated, and we connect in profound and meaningful ways. We are also held accountable, hopefully in ways that help us to learn and grow.
Together we have an opportunity to become more than we are on our own. We are made more perfect in these relationships, and are connected in divine love. I believe that when we spend our time and energy nurturing these relationships, a part of what we are doing is nurturing and building our relationship with God.
In academic circles, we call this ecclesiology. Books are written, theses are proposed, and classes are taught. It is good and important that we explore ecclesiology – the study of what it looks like to be the church. It is even more important that we experience the church! A beautiful way I’ve seen this idea of community as an experience of God is phrased in the popular musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
One of the traps I think some churches have fallen into is the idea of church being an inward-facing community. I don’t think church can be sustainable like this. We cannot think about church as a place to shelter ourselves from the outside world. Yes, the church must be a place where we are nurtured and cared for and where we care for one another; where we learn and are filled with God’s life-giving love. But that cannot be the end, because it’s not only for us! We must be taught and nurtured because we are sent!
We are sent into the world, into our communities. We are sent by Jesus when he says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a). We are sent alongside Moses when he is told, “So get going!” (Exodus 3:10a).
We have an opportunity to receive some help in connecting with our nearby neighborhood community. Working with our District and Annual Conference, we will experience the benefit of a ministry intern through the Wesley Foundation of San Diego. Rebecca Matsch (her last name rhymes with watch) joins PB UMC to focus on community connections in an effort to help us be the best neighbors we can be in our community.
Rebecca just started her first year at Point Loma Nazarene University with a major in Social Work, and has been an active participant at Camp Cedar Glen for several years. Rebecca will be supported in her role in a number of ways. She will receive financial support made possible by the Wesley Foundation, and she will have project support in working in a cohort of other interns and a mentor Pastor.
We too will have responsibility to support Rebecca’s work, in part by providing work space and other resources, and especially in our prayers and in our love. Rebecca will continue this work for the next 9 months (roughly through the school year) and we will have the opportunity to hear more from her throughout this time. Please look for Rebecca and share your care and support.
As we continue in this time of community building, let us remember that we are nurtured in our faith because we are sent to serve our siblings in the world. In this way, we build the Kingdom of God.
Grace and peace to you…