The Rev. J. Randolph Alexander, Jr., Rector
Some people who are now part of Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill grew up in Alexandria, but many grew up elsewhere in the United States, or in another country. Sure, for a few of us, Alexandria has always been home, and they have a lot to teach us about this special place. But, for manyof us, work or family, or some combination of the two, brought us here.
Most of us have lived in several places and we have family and friends scattered in still other places. It is not uncommon to meet new folks at the church door, folks who have just moved to town and report knowing no one here. They come to church seeking a real community; they come seeking a spiritual home. They speak clearly and convincingly of a deep need most of us share.
One of the great blessings of being part of a local church is that deep sense of community that can develop. I believe the Lord can use that longing for community,and the community itself,to draw us closer to Him and to each other. There are many parallels between a church community and a biological family:
--We are not all alike; far from it. Just as we marvel at how different siblings can be, so, too, are brothers and sisters in Christ. Different experiences and perspectives, different passions and hopes, and varying economic, social, politic,and theological outlooks make us quite a varied lot. So what draws ustogether? Our love of Jesus and the desire to worship together in a real community draw us together, and God shows up in surprising ways!
--We will not all like the same things. On any given Sunday you can find several folks relishing every verse of a certain hymn, while others are gritting their teeth until it is over. That is how it should be in real community! Not everything will appeal to everyone; in fact, certain things will repel some of us. We must always remember that our Christian tradition offers us a broad menu when it comes to worship and means of approach to God, and thank God for that!
--Really being part of a family requires that we pitch in, that we invest ourselves, and the church family is no different. A parish I know in California made a list of all of their ministry opportunities, a list of some 1,000 positions. Their list includes service as an usher, a lector, a chalice-bearer, singing in a choir, membership on a committee, service on the Vestry, and the like. If we compiled a list of available ministry positions at Immanuel, we would come up with many, many opportunities to be involved in some aspect of our life and ministry together!
--Being part of a family, or a real community, entails taking a certain amount of pridein that community, a certain esprit de corps. It involves a certain amount of our identity being caught up with the family or the community, with staking our claim, and declaring it publicly.
Finally, just like in a biological family, the amount of blessing and fulfillment we receive is directly proportional to the amount of ourselves that we invest in the family. For the Christian, this is all a part of Stewardship. Hear these words, traditionally heard in the Episcopal Church on Thanksgiving Day, about Home: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks and water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley...and you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God forthe good land he has given you”(Deuteronomy 8:7-10).
Try substituting the word “community” for the word “land” and see how it might resonate with your experience.