What is home to you?
As I travel throughout the 150 square mile bounds of our presbytery, visiting our congregational “homes,” I am constantly reminded of the incredible ministries of healing, hospitality, proclamation, and compassion that flow to neighbors nearby and around the world. I celebrate our sessions’ robust faith and resolute spirit as together we embrace the opportunities ahead. By stepping up with new, innovative programs and speaking out on behalf of those with little or no voice our elders point everyone to the Good News found in the risen savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for your ministry!
We sometimes call our church building our “home.” We speak about our hometown, opening our homes to strangers as a gesture of love, and at the end of the day, we anxiously wait to get back home. Our own references to death or the funeral of a loved one are often tenderly conveyed as a final “home-going.” Our music, books, and movies are filled with “home” titles and themes. Even in sports, we favor our home team and every baseball player focuses on the goal achieved when touching home plate.
Ecological homelessness is on the rise. It refers to the sense of displacement and fragmentation that alienates us from family and as citizens. We can also experience this homelessness within our own spirits. God is our secure home. If “home” that represents wholeness and peace were not that important to us, I doubt we would be as comforted as we are by its embrace, or find such motivation to experience it.
From the first book of the Bible to the last, there are hundreds of references to home. God told Abram to trade the comfortable home he knew, for a home he would claim in the distance. The incarnation of Jesus meant that God was making his home with us. In a few weeks, we celebrate the gift of the indwelling Spirit of Pentecost ensuring us, and assuring us, that God’s home is within us. God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! (Revelation 21.3).
Like all things we value, there is a cost to pay for establishing, seeking, or maintaining a healthy, safe home and neighborhood. In my conversations with elders, the increased operational costs of our buildings, frequently paired with reduced income and economic climate have created serious stressors. In some cases, the building has almost become our mission. The costs of operating the physical plant in some cases exceed the costs of ministry.
We honor our congregational homes, but we have become somewhat attached to them. Our aged buildings have suffered the effects of deferred maintenance and, in some cases, have become a disproportionate distraction to the mission of the church. In my visits with elders, I know these stressors are deeply felt and remedies are urgently sought. Sometimes our existing buildings and their upkeep have sapped energy away from having those needed conversations about innovative ministries, shared ministry with another congregation, and ministry re-alignment.
Decide today what is home to you and your ministry.