The Vicar's Vision
I am a member of _______ Lutheran Church!
We are in a new church year and it is also a new calendar year, 2012! Happy New Year, in both senses. As a new year begins, it’s a good time to take time to re-examine ourselves. Who are we? All of us go by many titles and have various responsibilities: parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, Mr., Mrs., Ms., student, employee, friend, and so on. Each title has its own particular identity and definition. The same goes for our identity as members of our faith family. What does it mean to be a member of a faith community?
The congregational constitution and bylaws of our church spell out what it means to be a member of a Lutheran congregation. It’s a good place to begin when considering what participation in the church involves.
C8.02 Members shall be classified as follows:
1) Baptized members are those persons who have been received by the Sacrament of Holy Baptism in this congregation, or, having been previously baptized in the name of the Triune God, have been received by certificate of transfer from other Lutheran congregations or by affirmation of faith.
2) Confirmed members are baptized persons who have been confirmed in this congregation, those who have been received by adult baptism or by transfer as confirmed members from other Lutheran congregations, or baptized persons received by affirmation of faith.
3) Voting members are confirmed members. Such confirmed members, during the current or preceding calendar year, shall have communed in this congregation and shall have made a contribution of record to this congregation.
What are the responsibilities of a member?
C8.04 It shall be the privilege and duty of members of this congregation to:
a. make regular use of the means of grace, both Word and sacraments;
b. live a Christian life in accordance with the Word of God and the teachings of the Lutheran church; and
support the work of this congregation, the
synod, and the church-wide organization of the
Notice the bold words from C8.02? As we know, baptized means being adopted into the family of God as a child of God. To be in the family of saints. Notice the word “family.”
Next – being a confirmed member means you have a basic knowledge of what we Lutherans believe as we confess our faith in the three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian. It means accepting Baptism and Holy Communion as the sacraments of the church, namely, as the means by which we receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. As confirmed members, we believe in the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and we believe we are saved by grace through Jesus Christ and not by our works.
A Voting member means having a say in the workings of the church. Voting members have the responsibility to keep informed about what is going on in the congregation. Voting, whether it is in the church or the political arena involves taking time to be informed before making a decision. How about the “responsibility” of a member? Notice the italicized words: make, live and support. Now we are getting into the nuts and bolts of being a member of a congregation.
Make: one way to make use of Word and sacraments is to be in church regularly (on Sundays) and take part in Word and Sacrament worship whenever else it is offered. Going to church is about worshiping our God. There are few good excuses for our absence. Besides, you are missed when you are not sitting in your pew and taking part in the service. Parents, do your children really have to do that sport during church on Sunday? What would happen if parents united and said “No” to sports on Sunday mornings? Or, how about boldly stating that going to church as a family is a value that isn’t negotiable. Imagine that!
Live: You are a shining star in the Lutheran congregation where you belong and an important part of the life of the whole Lutheran church. You show your faith and love of God by the things you do and the way you act. Don’t hide your light under a bushel - let it shine! Begin each day remembering your baptism and what it means for Christ to die for you and rise again.
Support: A common lament in most congregations goes like this: “The same people do all the work all the time. There are no new volunteers to take over what we have been doing for years!” While all congregations are blessed with a core of members who lead their ministries, no small group can do it alone. We all need to support our congregation with our time, abilities and financial support. In 2012, could you offer to do one thing in the church you have never done? Can you find one additional hour out of your week to volunteer at your church? How about giving up that fast food lunch and donating that money to the church-wide mission or add it to your weekly offering? Those fast food meals now run about 6 and 7 dollars! Adding the price of that one meal to your weekly offering would increase your offerings by $364 per year! Just think what that would mean to your congregation’s ministry.
I just had a discussion with my daughter about how families help each other get through whatever is going on in their lives. That’s true with the church. We are a family in Christ - one family. We are called to do and give all we can to build up each other and those less fortunate than us. There are many people outside the doors of our congregations that need our help. Are you willing to invite those into the church who are different from you? Those not as fortunate as you? Are you willing to go the extra mile to get those people through our doors? Of course you are! This church is made up of wonderful, caring, and hard working members.
As a “member” of a congregation it is your responsibility as a member of the family of God to help and to encourage and to promote the good things about your church and the love of God to all that cross your path. As a member of the family, you have a responsibility to share in the duties of running the church. As a member of that family, it is your responsibility to love and care for one another through the good times and the bad. Love one another as God loves you. Boy, if we could do that even 50% as well as God does, what a wonderful world it would be.
I’m asking you to do and give more of yourself and your time, talents, and resources. You are doing a great job now and I truly believe there is more in you to give and do. Just strive for one more hour a week and maybe donating one fast food meal a week. You will be surprised how much you can do and how much you can offer. God will support you and help you in your endeavor. Above all - PRAY! Pray for your congregational family and for everyone in need.
Even though I am trying to push you to go the extra mile; I want to thank each of you for what you do and who you are. P.L.U.M. is full of wonderful Christians that try hard and care a lot about each other. Keep it up and rethink your “membership” responsibilities and see if there is more you can offer. We thank God for you and all you give. Happy New Year!
- Vicar Melba
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773