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The Role of the Church in Times Such as These

by Mary Hammond


March 21, 2016

The Role of the Church in Times Such as These

Mary Hammond

Similar to our Vocation of Peacemaking series, The Borders I Cross is a series of reflections from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz members and friends about their peacemaking journeys. This particular series focuses on the many borders crossed for peacemaking, which include physical borders as well as those such as language, culture, race, religion, nationality, generation, class, and sexual orientation. These essays come from people from all walks of life; those who cross borders as students, in their paid professions, in their volunteer time, in their family lives and/or in retirement. We hope you enjoy this new series from the BPFNA! 

Recently, a member of another church brought an article to my attention. She read the piece, and her thoughts immediately turned toward Peace Community Church (PCC). It was titled, Why Some Smaller Churches Thrive Despite the Odds.

The author quoted a recent study called American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving. For congregations with under 100 in weekend worship, the researchers find that only about 18 percent say they are thriving and 29 percent say they are OK.

PCC is in that 18 percent. While size-wise, PCC has been contracting the past five years, the church has not been declining. There is a big difference.

We live in a time of rapid social change. We see it every week. Attendance at the first Tuesday night Study Group for the Ta Ne-hisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, nearly rivaled worship attendance the weeks both before and after.

Communication between church members is becoming really tricky. Once upon a time, there was the telephone and its handy answering machine. Now, there is facebook, email, twitter, cell phones, landlines, texting, and more.

People are frequently working longer and harder. Students are overburdened with debt and diminished job prospects as graduation approaches. The sheer barrage of world problems easily overwhelms even the hardiest of souls. Cynicism about both politics and religion is on the rise.

In times such as these, what does the Church need to look like?

Three words keep returning to me--Refuge, Resistance, and Resilience. These days call out for Communities of Refuge, where trustworthy relationships develop, prayers sustain, friendships nourish, visions arise, and hope is reborn. These days call out for Communities of Resistance, where the Reign of God is held up as an alternative vision of reality to that which the world around us offers. These days call out for Communities of Resilience, where tenacity and perseverance trump shallow answers, painless solutions, and casual commitments.

I believe that harder times are down the road. The Church can put its head in the sand and hold onto the familiar. Or the church can position itself with open arms and hearts, with daring and bold imaginations. The Church can brazenly, freely, fearlessly offer itself for the sake of this world which God fiercely loves.

In communities near and far, God is shaping this Church of Today, this Church of Tomorrow. PCC is one small part of that Story. We invite you to support us with your prayers, partnership, and participation in whatever ways call to you. We are thankful, challenged, and deeply blessed.

To read more from Mary on this topic, click here for a sermon she gave in January called And the Future of the Church is...?

Mary Hammond serves as Co-Pastor with her husband, Steve, at Peace Community Church, Oberlin, OH. They both have been members of BPFNA since its beginnings. The ministry in Oberlin has been their life work for nearly 37 years. They are also volunteer Affiliates in the Oberlin College Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Mary has authored two books, The Road Toward Wholeness (Judson Press) and The Church and the Dechurched: Mending a Damaged Faith (Chalice Press). She also co-authored Jesus, las muyeres y yo with American Baptist Missionary Ruth Mooney. That book was published in El Salvador in Spanish in the 1980s. 

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