A few weeks ago, in one of the “Daily Devotionals” that are published on our denomination’s website (ucc.org), Vince Amlin, the Associate Minister at our sister church in Gainesville, Florida, wrote about a small group gathering he attended with other members of that congregation.
During it, Amlin says that a woman asked the other participants the following question:
“What do you expect from me as a fellow church member?”
It is a critical question, perhaps the most important question that needs to be answered in terms of the spiritual vitality of a congregation. What is it that we expect; should expect; even have a right to expect from each other as fellow members of a faith community? Because we do in fact, have a right to expect things from each other. That is what it means to be a congregation, a spiritual community. That is what it means to be, in the language of the Bible and theology, in covenant with each other. A Christian congregation is meant to reflect the relationship between God and the people of Israel presented in the Bible. That relationship is one of covenant–mutual promise and obligation.
So what do we have a right to expect from each other?
To adapt a framework suggested by Eric Geiger, Senior Pastor at ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, we have a right to expect that, depending upon the circumstances, and our particular gifts and resources, we will be each others’:
“Been There Person”
“Join Me Person”
“No Matter What Person”
As Geiger describes it, a “Been There Person” is somebody who can offer us input and insight, provide us wisdom and constructive feedback so we can grow in general or meet a particular challenge. A “Join Me Person” is someone who invites us along for a specific task or event, or even more importantly, for a longer journey of friendship, companionship, or caregiving. A “No Matter What Person” is somebody who will stick with us, stay by us in all our times of struggle and success.
As God’s covenant promise to each of us is to be our “Been There”, “Join Me” and “No Matter What” person, our part of that covenant is to be “Been There”, “Join Me”, and “No Matter What” people for each other. That is what we have a right to expect from each other.
As we continue this Easter season of new life and new possibility, I invite us each to consider how we might be one or more of those types of people for someone we have not been before.