Reflecting on the Identity and Values Statement
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Norman Jones (chair of congregational board)
Mahatma Ghandi said:
Let your thoughts be positive for they will become your words.
Let your words be positive for they will become your actions.
Let your actions be positive for they will become your values.
Let your values be positive for they will become your destiny.”
Rev. Sharon Moon
Jesus said that the kind of foundation on which you build, makes all the difference to whether that house can stand in times of storm and adversity.
The Apostle Paul said to the early church in Corinth, and says to us today â€œ You are the body of Christ and individually members of it.â€ You do not exist just for yourselves. You are the body of Christ. You are called to work together as the embodiment of Christ for your community. So who are we as the body of Christ?
We live in times of huge change, of paradigm shifts, and the way we understand church is also changing. Congregations need to look at their identity on a regular basis, and make sure that who they say we are is who they really are now, not just who they were 50 years ago. Congregations that thrive in this new reality of change, are congregations that have a clear identity, a clear sense of why they exist.
At a congregational retreat day in May 2008, we explored who we were and where we felt God called us in the next few years. Part of what came out of that discussion was a realization that we had changed, and we agreed that it was time to create a new mission or identity statement that reflected who we were becoming. Many of you came to congregational meetings and shared ideas. There has been a back and forth testing of this statement over the last several months. It became clear early on that a strong consensus was emerging. A common purpose, a common vision was emerging Deep in our Heart.
Verse One Deep in our Hearts. #154 More Voices
As we worked together we chose the format of a general identity statement and then values statements that would link with a brief comment on who we enact that value. Today we claim it as our own in worship.
We boldly say. We are an open faith community seeking to keep Jesusâ€™ message relevant and real in our complex world – a message of abundant life for all.
– An open faith community, not just for insiders, not just for members
– open minded to meet people where they are, living in a complex world.
-An open faith community seeking to keep Jesusâ€™ message relevant and real in our complex world- a message of abundant life for all.
We believe that Jesus invitation to life in all its fullness, to abundant life, is not just for 1st century people but for us today. What do you think of when you think of abundant life? In scripture there is a concept that runs throughout called Shalomâ€¦which is Godâ€™s vision of wholeness, of peace in a full sense, not just the absence of war. A vision of life lived in harmony with the earth and with one another, and with Godâ€¦Abundant life! for all! not just for some.
In his time Jesus embodied Godâ€™s desire for fullness of life for the ill, for the well, for insiders and outsiders, for women as well as men, for children as well as adults, for peasants as well as those who had means. Jesus embodied this fullness of life through his healing, through his crossing lines of class, gender, religion, illness; through his advocacy for the marginalized. Through his announcing that God was on the loose in all of life. He saw kingdom, the living presence of God in creation, in seeds planted, and birds flying, in fish caught, and in the fishermen and the peasants who flocked to him. He saw and proclaimed the kingdom of God, the living presence of God, alive and among them in the midst of ordinary life, a God who cared. His message was radical.
This statement challenges us to reflect on how we, as the body of Christ, offer a message of abundant life, through our worship, our life and our action. And it challenges us to keep current with the community around us to keep checking on whether we are relevant to the needs and hopes of the community .
Verse: 2 Deep in Our Hearts.
Next come our value statements. We value a contemporary Christian theology that works through our lives. We are a place for people to seek and find God
Cedar Park is a place where we welcome seekers, a place where we welcome questions, a place for to wrestle with what we believe, and to hear new ways of thinking about God. We are not all expected to have the exact same beliefs. We are part of an emerging paradigm of being the church. God is doing a new thing among us, and we keep trying to understand what that means for our lives and for our life as a community.
We value worship that connects with real life. We share inspiring messages and music that challenge us to live in Godâ€™s way.
We pray about the issues that are in our world, we preach about the connection between the scripture and the lives we live. Our music ministry offers rich worship leadership for the community. We care about the lives that people are actually living, and so we hope that our worship reflects that, and challenges us to grow and to live attuned to Godâ€™s way.
We value spiritual growth. We are seekers of understanding and provide a safe environment for exploring faith and spirituality together.
All you have to do is look at our programming to see that we value exploring faith and spirituality. Currently we have a group for Guided Imagery Meditation with 24 participants. We have a group of 7 couples exploring Couplehood as a Spiritual Path. A bible study group begins in November to learn new ways of engaging scripture. We even have a bible study blog to use anytime. Faith discussion group explores spiritual and life issues. And kidzone works to develop a spirituality and faith in our kids. Menâ€™s group and a new womenâ€™s group are yet other ways in which people gather and explore the links between their lives and their faith. There are many ways where we provide a safe environment for people to explore, to experience, to question, to grow, to discover their gifts and to use them in growing the shared ministry that comes through this community.
Verse 3: Deep in our Hearts:
We value inclusivity and harmony, honesty and respect in our relationships. We are an affirming ministry that values diversity of all kinds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Last year, Cedar Park became an affirming congregation with overwhelming support of the congregation In a world where those who are â€œdifferentâ€ are often rejected and targeted with taunts and even violence, we choose to stand with those who are marginalized. We recognize that we are so much richer when we welcome in an inclusive way. And we have much to learn as we do this, and need to continue to grow into this value.
We live together under a covenant for harmony where we agree to respect one another, to speak our truth with honesty, to listen to those with whom we do not agree so that we can hear deeply what lies under their words.
We value the balance and wholeness that comes through healing. We promote healing and wholeness in many ways, including through our Healing Pathways and pastoral care ministries.
We are a healing community in many ways – through our welcoming community, we provide a place for people to be real, and to connect beyond the surface. Through our Pastoral Care ministry and the caring that happens through so many programmes – morning connections, menâ€™s group, womenâ€™s group, and so many more. Our healing pathways ministry offers healing touch sessions to over 100 people per year. Sharon offers healing counseling through family life centre, which involves several of our members as coordinator, and intake workers And programming like a Coping with Chronic Pain workshop in Oct. also lives out our commitment to a healing ministry. When a group comes to ask for space, one of the things we look for is, does it fit within the values and identity statement of the church. Certainly AA and a new group called Tool Kit for those living with chronic pain fit with this commitment to balance and wholeness that comes through healing.
We value being a community without borders, a church without walls. Nurturing talents and gifts, we make connections through outreach to the wider community by means of our programmes, music, and ministries.
A key value of our congregation is nurturing the gifts of our congregation. We need everyone in our congregation to be able to be effective in our life as a community and our work beyond our walls. Many of our programmes reach beyond our walls with at least half of the participants in many programmes come from beyond our walls: eg. meditation group, our green programming, our Journeys to Africa programme, our Lenten programme on world faiths. Our Voices for Hope music ministry has 70 voices with a long waiting list many from beyond our walls. We are being challenged to explore living this value in a way we did not expect. We are even exploring a request from another congregation to work with them in developing affordable seniorâ€™s housing which would involve us in a very concrete way, being a church without borders… Weâ€™re not sure where it will lead but as this develops you will hear more about it if it looks feasible.
We value social and global justice. We strive to connect faith with action, recognizing that partnerships make a difference in engaging the world.
Cedar Park has a large number of partnerships in the larger community. As generous contributors, we work through the Mission and Service Fund of the United Church of Canada with partners with people around the world, and with the church across Canada. More locally we partner with the missions of Montreal Presbytery, St Columba House and Montreal City mission. We provide board members, and financial and other support. Other partners include Grandmothers to Grandmothers supporting African grandmothers raising aids orphans and Free the Children, our Youth in Action group is incredibly powerful raising funds to build schools, wells, water catchment and a medical clinic. We partner with Dix Milles Villages, a fair trade store where our values are put into action every day. We partner with Family Life Centre to provide counseling to those in need on the West Island. We partner with Care Apartments and manage, along with Beaurepaire United Church an apartment housing those with mental health issues. We partner with Christian Action food bank.
Many individuals in the congregation are involved in these partnerships and in many other social justice projects in which they live out their faith in the real world. You can hear more about these partnerships and find out where you can fit in at an outreach potluck on October 24th
Cedar Park is so much more than what happens here on Sunday morning and we encourage and need everyone to get involved.
We value the God-given gift of our home, the Earth. We recognize the need to adapt our thinking and our actions in order to restore and sustain our environment.
We are part of the Green Church initiative of Montreal Presbytery, Our sales are not simply fundraisers. They also recycle. We often have green programmes includes Living Greener, Learning how to live sustainably on a budget which will be held here tomorrow night. In addition we recyle batteries, (thatâ€™s new) ink cartridges for printers, and a number of other things. (Take a look at the new collection site between the doors in the Christian Education wing.) In our recent roof decisions, going green was one of the core values as the board makes its decisions. We preach a theology of creation that honors the earth as a sacred gift of God which we need to respect, restore, and sustain. But undoubtedly there is more we can be doing.
As you can see, we are already living in very concrete ways some of these values. But these values also challenge us to grow more deeply into them; to use them as we reflect on our life and ministry in this place.
Verse 4 Deep in our Hearts.