Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Distinguishing Factor

One of the things which makes small rural country churches different from their urban counterparts  is the way the people who worship there have a shared history.  Now, it is certainly true that urban church go-ers who stick to the same community of faith long enough will develop a history of shared experiences.  But, it is a different kind of history.  One is born out of sharing together on some project or church event.  Such things can create a bond.  But, the shared history of the small church is one that speaks of a life time of growing up together, knowing one another almost from birth, and sharing a multitude of life's experiences.

After I retired I was asked to fill in for a pastor who was having some health issues.  When she died the anticipated two month recovery period turned into a four and half year ministry.  It was a small town church with a rural mind set.  With an average Sunday worship attendance of a dozen, it was not just a small church, but a very small one.  Everyone knew everyone.  Everyone knew each other's parents.  When it came time to  remember people who had been a source of influence, it was quite common for someone to speak of the father or mother or grandparent of a nearby pew companion.  It was and continues to be a community where the good and the bad are a part of the life shared by all.

I am grateful for this pastoral moment at the nearby Rocky Ford United Methodist Church.  All my ministry I had been about trying to fabricate community through various program.  As I stepped into my place as pastor in that church, I found the community I had been trying to create.  Community cannot be created by a program.  It may be facilitated, but it only comes into existence as people are willing to be transparent and accountable with one another.  I am grateful that here toward the end of my ministry, I had the opportunity to experience it once again. 

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