The Sacrament of the Shared Life
We come to this service to invoke the mood of reverence and worship; To lift our thoughts in aspiration toward all high and holy aims:
We come here to renew our loyalty to the good, the true, and the beautiful; And to consecrate ourselves to service for the common good.
We are children of nature, living amid the mysteries,
Bound together by joy and sorrow, beauty and pain, love and death;
We realize the brevity of our existence and the wonder of it;
We would support each other all along the way.
We give thanks together for a myriad of things;
That enrich us day by day; the pageantry of the seasons and the skies;
The music of the waves; the laughter of our little children; The friendliness that banishes our loneliness; And all the wondrous sights and sounds that glorify the soul, and that gives hope to humanity and to life on earth.
We enter into the holy of holies, the blessed communion of our human lives; In our work which is for the good of all; in our play that makes the heart leap for joy, and that gives a blessed zest for life.
We, too, would belong to the company of angels; those light-bearers
And redeemers who would through their grace and care transform our desert places, and bless the whole family of humankind.
Thus shall we be blessed by what we do, and through the realization that we have, among us, this sacrament of a shared life;
And we vow to live a life that makes the earth safe, and that others are enriched by knowing us, and together peace will come to us all.
The Rev. Rupert Holloway (adapted)
A True Church
A true church, is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than its building, its budget, its minister, or any other combination of things.
If any of those above concerns dominates, then the gathering of people that was known as a church is threatened by the potential of degenerating into a group defined only by its secular concerns, or by losing its spiritual core, or forgetting transcendent values of how and why they are together. To aspire to be come a church, rather than merely a religious institution requires the members to be ever mindful of who and whatr they are when they are together. If they desire to be a church, they gratefully acknowledge their history as the repository of their foundational ideals and principles0 and in that regard, respect their history while trusting the future more! A church is never static, it is always dynamic and in an active dialogue with its mission in the larger world. It resists resting on its history as being a passive, paying homage to the past, in order to avoid examining it for its inspirational lessons. A churche,if it is a genuine community, never sits back, never becomes self satisfied or content with its legacy or admires itself by looking in the rose colored mirror. No true church can allow itself to become preoccupied by the illusion that by treading water, by superficial gatherings, or a lack of devotion in its worship it can keep its dynamism, or even keep peace with the twists and turns, the grace and the challenges that are included in its past
A community becomes a church when it possesses a strong and vibrant mission, and when it maintains and affirms an interactive quality of shared responsibility, (sometimes inadequately defined as shard ministry) that goes beyond any concern for the individual or their opinions, to honor decisions based on compassion and wisdom that makes the greater good the basis of participating in a true, democratic community.
A congregation is more than an audience; it is people who care for one another genuinely, and who support their defined foundational values by their vitality of their examples. They possess a clear understanding of their theological and ethical history, a ongoing desire to rectify or improve on its past, and join together in active anticipation of fulfilling its significance to the larger city or environs. Only then does an institution become a church, become human, become spiritual, and truly loving towards one another.
When asked to define membership as a part of their adult religious education class in NYC, this is what that group said:
“First, it is to have an extended family. It is a group of people of all ages, from many distant origins, and from various walks of life. It possesses nearly every imaginable human quirk you can think of, and a few that might surprise you!
Our church family inspires, amuses, disappoints and mystifies us. Throughout it triumphs and travails, it never ceases to be nurturing to me and in return, it needs my consistent nurture and my devoted attention.
In the end, you can get things you prize that you never realized you wanted, and you can wind up providing others with blessings you never knew where yours to bestow.
Secondly, and ethically, being a member of this community means to me that I hold to a commitment to keep asking myself what is sacred- or what I hold to be of importance, and what am I going to do about fostering and expanding its role in my life.
In our coming together through our religious services, there are opportunities for warmth, connection, and support. This carries through to our committee work, our social action, our poetry and prayers, and even to my lifting my flat voice in raspy song- all of these activities help me to recharge my spiritual batteries.
Finally, being a member of this congregation means that I am doing my part to carry a small but brilliant torch, the flame of religious freedom, out into a world that desperately needs its light.