Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.Ephesians 2:19-22
This weekend I did a thing. I met with the elders at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian and, for only the fifth time in my life, I joined a church.
For me, this is a very big deal. It’s a huge deal because I still deeply love the people and ministry of WFPC (and it’s a lot harder to say goodbye when you retire but don’t sell your house and move to another state!). It’s a big deal because this is the first time I have ever made a choice regarding where to worship. It’s a big deal because I don’t take church membership lightly. It’s a big deal because this is not a human organization, but a part of the Body of Christ.
I have joined HMPC because, essentially, it feels right.
What does “it feels right” mean?
So I have tried to unpack that, to understand what it means for a church to “feel right.” Because I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I was looking for in a church. In fact, had I carried around a clear idea, checking off items on a bullet-pointed list, there’s a good chance I would not have picked Hudson!
My checklist would likely have included some of the definitive elements that characterized Rebekah’s 40-year ministry. Things like, for example: A fairly young church, one that hasn’t been around that many years; a church that’s a little bit on the “edgy” side (for Presbyterians); a church with a sanctuary in the semi round; one with a more informal worship style, an emphasis on contemporary music, and a lot of unscripted interaction between worship leaders and the congregation; a church where there is a loud “buzz” of noise, laughter, and conversation in place of a formal prelude.
But a church is not a consumer destination like a restaurant, a cruise ship, a mall, or a resort! Church is a community of redeemed saints and sinners, gathering to worship God and striving to be the presence of Jesus in this tragically broken world.
It turns out that I wasn’t looking for a particular worship order, or building architecture, or style of music, or personality, or culture, or demographic; what I want – what I need – is a place where my heart feels at home, and where Rebekah and I can participate in worship that is authentic and people who are genuine.
That’s the word, authentic. What I was looking for was authenticity.
Sure, senior pastor Mac Schafer reminds me of Rebekah’s irrepressibly joyful style, with a genuine love for Jesus and a passion for people; but the key element is the fact that Mac is genuine. Mac is 100% himself; and the same goes for pastor Debbie too.
HMPC is a place where I feel that God is worshiped in spirit and in truth, where Jesus is not only loved but followed, and where the Holy Spirit is alive, breathing life into everything that is said and done. It is a community of faith where I can not only worship but be instructed, where I will be challenged to grow, and where I will – in time – share some of my gifts too.
HMPC is a church where I can – and am already beginning to – feel at home. So I joined.
- 1970: Folkestone Baptist Church in the South of England.
- 1982: Trinity Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida.
- 1996: First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, Florida.
- 2013: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church.
- 2022: Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church, Raleigh.
One more thing. Rebekah and I have always been involved in churches that are alive, vibrant, growing in many different ways, invitational, and reaching out with God’s love to the communities around them.
We have every reason to believe that this will be our experience here too. After all, this is the Gospel we’re talking about, the Good News, God’s faithful promise and generous invitation. – DEREK