One key way we manifest Christ’s presence in our lives is by being attached to a local body of believers who bear his name. These bodies are known as “assemblies” (kononia) or “churches,” all of which around the world together are Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. All baptized Christians are part of this global Church, yet all Christians are a part of it by way of their attachment to a particular local church.
While the New Testament doesn’t explicitly use the language, we have provided a formal structure to recognize and honor this local connection at Christ Church Anglican which we, like many churches, call membership. While formal membership is a recognized category in our parish bylaws and is necessary to perform certain ministries at our church, we’ve never done much to educate people on what it means, what its responsibilities are, what its benefits are, and perhaps most importantly, how it relates to the fundamental call of all Christians to be disciples of the manifested Lord of glory.
For this reason, over the next three Sundays after our main service (January 11, 18, and 25), we will be hosting a membership class that will attempt to root commitment to our local body in the broader New Testament principles of discipleship. Topics to be covered in those three days include:
- The relationship between discipleship and the local church
- a brief overview of our larger Anglican tradition, how it functions to aid the life of discipleship, and our congregation’s place within that larger tradition
- our core vision, mission, and values as a congregation which are particular local expressions of our commitment to be disciples of Jesus
- what such commitment looks like for the individual member of our congregation, with an overview of the benefits and responsibilities thereof
The class will conclude with the signing of a simple covenant to be a member of Christ Church Anglican with a term of one year. Such an action will represent the “formal request by writing” to become a member as expressed in our parish bylaws.
Anyone who desires to become a member of Christ Church Anglican for the first time will be required to attend all three classes. However, since this is the first time we have offered this class at all, I strongly encourage all currently active members to make every effort to attend the course.
Starting this year, all membership terms will need to be renewed every year, though no one will be required to take the class itself more than once. This one year term is not meant to be an unnecessary burden, but an annual reminder of what membership in our parish involves.
Some quick caveats about membership at Christ Church:
- Baptism is the standard of inclusion in Christ's global church. Such inclusion is sacramentally expressed by Holy Communion. You DO NOT have to be an active member of Christ Church Anglican to take Communion at our church, or even to come and worship with us regularly. If you have been baptized in the name of the Triune God, you are welcome to the Lord's Table. All membership expresses is a more intentional commitment to support the ministry of Christ Church.
- Membership IS REQUIRED to enter into senior leadership in the parish, from serving on the Vestry to assisting at the altar to leading a ministry. Membership is NOT REQUIRED to volunteer to assist with a ministry, such as being on the hospitality team or singing in the choir or being on the readers' schedule.
- Confirmation is a right of initiation into the whole of Christ's global church, and is not a standard of membership in our local body. You DO NOT have to be a Confirmed Anglican to be a member, NOR do you have to be a member to seek Confirmation. However, the two things are obviously closely related and anyone who desires one will be encouraged, though not required, to seek the other. Serving on the Vestry is the only lay ministry which requires both.
- While official, your membership does not come with a "stick" attached, which is to say you cannot and will not be punished in any way by a failure to live up to the terms of the membership covenant, which itself merely expresses the most basic characteristics of discipleship. We are all on a journey with the Lord, with many bumps and turns on the way, and membership does not imply you have already "attained the goal" by any means. We will have a record of your membership in our official parish files, but the commitment you are making is primarily to God and is between you and him within the context of the gospel of grace.