Connecting with Historic Congregations

West Fork Presbyterian Church - photo by Greg Smith

West Fork Presbyterian Church – photo by Greg Smith

A year ago I was in Connecticut preaching and leading a Day of Discovery for leaders of  Westchester Congregational Church (founded in 1728) .  Yesterday I was in Grand Prairie, Texas preaching at West Fork Presbyterian (PCUSA) Church (founded in 1870).  Fifteen years ago I was preaching or assisting in leading worship at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which claims to be the oldest continually meeting Protestant congregation in Dallas, Texas (founded in 1863).

These three congregations are affiliated with different denominations, yet share much in common.  They all have limitations, including

  1. far fewer people who attend worship each week than attended 50 years ago
  2. very real financial concerns and constraints
  3. communities that have changed considerably since the congregation relocated to its present campus many years ago

These three congregations also have rich resources, including

  1. stories that are bigger than any person or generation
  2. caring members and other friends of the faith community who are committed to the well-being of the congregation
  3. opportunities for renewal, resurrection, and new beginnings

So What?

The average church in America has a worship attendance of less than 100 people yet the most talked about congregations are megachurches (those with at least 2,000 in worship).  Both very large and very small congregations have important roles to play.  And, of course, very young and very seasoned congregations share in the work of making real God’s realm on earth as it is in heaven.

If you have never had the opportunity to worship in an historic congregation, I encourage you to commit to doing so before the end of this year.  And, if you know about an historic congregation that is acting in creative, innovative, or other generative ways take a few moments to offer words of encouragement or to make some other contribution that affirms and encourages these new ventures.

I give thanks for congregations that started in the 1800s, the 1900s, and the 2000s alongside those that are much more ancient than the United States.  As I think of the historic congregations I know best, I am hopeful for the future of all who follow the Way of Jesus.

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