To begin with, this change is in line with a desire to help persons be in deeper relationship with one another and with God as I discussed in last week’s entry here. Membership in The United Methodist Church is a big deal and I cannot emphasize this enough. I mean big in the context of our spirituality and our commitment to Christian community. Just take a look at the liturgy for membership here. When you read this liturgy carefully, you might agree with me that we are in fact talking about something that runs much deeper than membership especially in a day when this word is tossed around so casually. My friend David has membership with a record of the month club. There are clear differences between these memberships and membership in the church. When we are talking about the church there is a level of commitment, intimacy, and intense spirituality that is neither present or relative to these other opportunities. My Starbucks membership does not hold me accountable to “…resisting injustice, evil, and oppression in whatever forms they presents themselves.”
On another note, membership in a giant institution like The United Methodist Church is a hard sell to a generation that has grown understandably resistant to and skeptical of institutions. Even more, when the church has been portrayed as homophobic, and racist, and for turning a blind eye to injustice there is an understandable resistance to membership. The church is called to live alternatively to the rest of the world and sometimes we need to make changes that make it clear we are behaving in this alternative manner. Calling something different is a subtle change that reflects a more significant shift in process.
Finally, I am convinced that high expectation equals high levels of commitment. We are talking about discipleship with the one who said, “Those who follow me must take up their cross daily…” We are talking about participation in a vision to “…build the front porch to the Kingdom of God.” A commitment to Jesus Christ and to building this front porch necessitates deepened relationship with the community and with God. Our new path to discipleship will seek to provide just that.
Last week I talked about organizing our small group ministries into trimesters and our path to covenant partnership is going to follow this same schedule as I will offer three classes the first three Sunday of each trimester (The first three weeks of October, February, and June). The classes will include
- Grace through the Social / Personal Pursuit of God,
- What’s Your Why? Discovering God’s Story of God’s Call in Your Life
- The Vision and Purpose of Sunnyside UMC
A fourth class will be required of all who desire baptism for themselves, their children, or whoever might need a refresher for renewal of baptism.
Persons who desire membership will need to take each of these classes, in no particular order during the year in time for Covenant Partnership through the renewal of Baptism on Easter Sunday. These classes will help participants develop a common grammar of faith, a common understanding of the work of God through this church, and a starting point for understanding God’s call in their own lives so that we can all partner with God to build the front porch in and through this local church.
Now, to those who are already members; it would be a great gesture of hospitality to commit yourselves to this process to come to know and welcome those who are new. Engaging these classes might even strengthen your own relationships to God and deepen your awareness of God’s call in your own life. I encourage you who have been here for a long time to engage this process and renew your membership claiming Covenant Partnership.
As we engage a more deliberate participation in small group ministries, and the path to Covenant Partnership it is my hope that we encounter the grace of God more profoundly, and respond to this grace more robustly as God calls this church to “…build the front porch to the Kingdom of God…” in this community. And speaking of grace, this is the core of Wesleyan Spirituality. Next week I will conclude this three part series with a reflection on grace through a Wesleyan lens.