Several years ago Tanya and I were looking at some old photo albums. There was a picture of me when I was one, being held by my Grandpa. After doing a little math I realized that my Grandpa was the same age I am right now! Another picture (in a later album) was of my Dad and me at our wedding. My Dad was several years younger than I am right now! Both pictures really threw me. My Grandpa was an old man and I don’t feel old. In many ways I don’t feel much older than I was when Tanya and I got married, but the pictures told a different story. My self-identity seems to be off from my reality. Our identity keeps changing over time and it takes time for our self-awareness to catch up to our actual identity – true for individuals; true for the church.
Over the past several years the identity of Sharon Community Presbyterian Church has changed significantly. In the 1970s Sharon was a growing, suburban church with a large staff. In the 80s, 90s, 2000s, Sharon started on what I often call the typical “Presbyterian slide,” declining membership and decreasing staff. Many Presbyterian/mainline congregations are going through similar struggles. Then, in the last several years, the conflict at Sharon led to some big changes – staff changes and congregational members leaving. As we move into 2017 Sharon Church is a different church than it was when I arrived in October 2014, much less what it was in 2010, or 1980, or 1850. Sharon is no longer a rural, community church (one of the only ones in the community) or a large growing suburban church. Who are we now? This interim time is a good time to reflect on, and possibly make intentional changes to, the identity of SCPC.
The second developmental task of the interim time is Renewing the Congregational Identity. The first task of the interim (see the November Good News) was Coming to Terms with Our History. We are going to look at this task in more detail during the Sunday school time on January 15 (see the other article in the Good News). The history of SCPC is actually part of the identity, but the question now is “Who are we now that the conflict has ended? Who are we as we move closer to calling a new pastor?” Here are some questions to help us think about the identity of SCPC (along with a few of my observations):
1) Who Are We?
2) Whose Are We?
3) Where Are We?
4) Why Are We?
“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar… “I – I hardly know, Sir, just at present,” Alice replied rather shyly, “at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then” (Lewis Carroll).
Sharon Community Presbyterian Church continues to change. Understanding our identity will energize the congregation and prepare SCPC for the ministry of the new pastor. I invite you, in your own times of prayer and in conversations with others, to keep these questions before you. Please share your answers / reflections with others – I’d love to hear what you think.
Current and Past Good News articles and announcements.