Connecting is our fifth core value. Our vision statement helps us to connect by cultivating community. From the very beginning of the church men, women and children bonded together as brothers and sisters in Christ. They were connected in community by the work of the Spirit.
Connectedness appears to be an easy value to live out because we gather together on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, occasionally for Bible studies, P.W. circles and other activities such as the rummage sale. We can look at those moments and say to ourselves, "See we are connected because we are in the same place doing the same thing." The question becomes however, is that really connecting?
When we speak of connecting we are not simply speaking of getting together. While that may be more connecting than many people engage in today it still falls short of the Biblical image of Christ-like connectedness which Paul discusses in his letters. The Apostle writes of a body of Christ in which each person (and their gifts) was spiritually connected to the life and work of the community. The church was a body in which all shared what they had (time, talent and treasure) so no one else was in need. This was a body that ate, prayed and sacrificed together. This was a body which understood that they were spiritual brothers and sisters.
That kind of connected community, one in which lives, resources and faith are intimately shared is a reality which has been largely lost in 21st century America.
It has been lost because the church is seen by many to be one more voluntary association in which we come to have our spiritual needs met. We pay our membership dues and we expect to receive something for them (great music, good preaching and opportunities for our children/youth to know about faith). We will volunteer and help out when needed but we do so knowing that we can opt out whenever we want.
It has been lost because we are so focused on the singularity (whether that is one person or one family unit) that the idea of being intimately connected with others not in that singularity is a foreign concept. Therefore the idea that all of those people sitting around me are truly my brothers and sisters is just a bit suspect.
It has been lost for many other reasons as well (read The Great Emergence for more details), yet that is the community life to which the scriptures, our Book of Order and our own mission statement call us. The PCUSA Book of Order puts it this way:
The church is called to demonstrate " by the love of its members for one another and by the quality of common life the new reality in Christ; sharing in worship, fellowship, and nurture, practicing a deepened life of prayer and service under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."
We at First Presbyterian Church are called to live out a new common (connecting) life in Christ. To do so will require an intentional effort to define what that life looks like and then attempt to live it. Though this will be a counter cultural endeavor, I believe the connections which will be created will be worth the effort.