A few years ago the book "Bowling Alone" was published. It explored the reasons why people in general were not interested in officially joining volunteer organizations including religious entities. Although the book listed several good possibilities as to why people don't join groups like they once did I find myself more interested in why some people still do join and what the benefits might be for doing so. Christian denominations differ in how they approach membership. Some keep official roles and some consider anyone who participates fairly regularly as part of their membership. In the PC(USA) although all people are very welcome to participate in worship and any church activity, official membership is initiated by a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ and no one who is willing to do so can be excluded. Here at First Pres we invite people to take part in a few classes before they make a final decision about membership here. We do this for a few reasons, one of which is that publicly declaring faith in Jesus Christ is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. Another reason is that membership implies a willingness to take an active part in the witness and mission of the church so people should know something about our vision for ministry before making a commitment to take part as they are able.
Our Book of Order states that "membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege. It is also a commitment to participate in Christ's mission. A faithful member bears witness to God's love and grace and promises to be involved responsibly in the ministry of Christ's Church." To live in such a way can be challenging and in our spiritual journey we need one another for both encouragement and accountability. In a world where the trend seems to be to 'bowl alone' the Church calls us to live differently and making the commitment to be part of a faith community demonstrates that the call to follow Jesus is taken seriously.
Starting on Sunday Sept 16 we will be holding membership classes between the two worship services. I invite any and all to come and learn more, or be reminded of, the joys and privileges of membership.