At Small Church, there is a strong old-fashioned Congregational identity, in the sense that even without knowing the words of the 1913 Kansas City Statement of Faith, the people live it. In part it reads:
We believe in the freedom and responsibility
of the individual soul, and the right of private judgment.
Yesterday we took a vote on Open and Affirming. The church has had a statement of welcome in place for years, but never took official steps toward ONA. When the proposal was explained, the first comment from a member was, “I thought we already were!” It passed unanimously.
The real inclusivity, to their minds, seems not to be about race or class or sexual orientation. They take that for granted. The real inclusivity is having some theological elbow room. They like knowing that even if their Christology on an average day is as low as mine is on Good Friday, they are still part of the church. They like knowing that even when we don’t know what we’re seeking, we have a good place to look for it together. They like knowing that as part of the church there is a community that will weep with them when they weep and rejoice with them when they rejoice. They like knowing there is still a place where it is safe to talk about, and to wonder over, and to praise God.
More from the Kansas City Statment:
While affirming the liberty of our churches,
and the validity of our ministry,
we hold to the unity and catholicity of the Church of Christ,
and will unite with all its branches in hearty cooperation;
and will earnestly seek, so far as in us lies,
that the prayer of our Lord for his disciples may be answered,
that they all may be one.
The UCC is a funny kind of denomination, trying to be a container that will hold many different ways of understanding God. There are things about which we can be one church, but for us the most important thing is agreeing to be that Church without compelling each other to subscribe to a particular definition of Church. It’s a struggle. The answers are not easy ones.
One night at Bible Study I said, “This is not the kind of church where anyone is going to tell you what to believe.” Beloved Pillar of the Church, a gentleman of 80+ who had been coming here since he was in short pants, replied, “If it were, I would look for another church.”
We surely do have struggles over practice, the “we’ve always done it this way” sort of things. You won’t see me getting into a debate about trying to use blue instead of violet on the altar during Advent!! But I am amazed over and over again at the open thinking over big things found in the people of Small Church. I admire their courage. Sometimes faith is admitting you don’t have all the answers, but you still believe.