Written by Kathryn Matthews Huey
UCC congregations proclaim, "We have faith, in Cleveland!" Or Houston … or Springfield … wherever our "neighborhood" may be. Surroundings shape mission: whether they're rolling farmlands, busy suburbs, struggling neighborhoods or bustling urban centers, they're the place where we gather to be the church.
Last Sunday, Amistad Chapel UCC, a new church start of the Western Reserve Association of the Ohio Conference, received 21 founding members, who stood in Amistad Chapel in Cleveland and promised to "walk in the way of Jesus; to support and challenge one another to live faithfully; to discern the call of God in prayer, scripture, worship, and openness to the world; to allow ourselves to be changed, shaped, and transformed by this community," all, of course, with the help of God.
Two members had thought they needed more time; they were still carrying some "baggage," they said, from their previous church experiences. Then it dawned on them that this was the place "where we can just set that baggage down": a place of openness, acceptance and challenge where they could grow spiritually and be salt, light and leaven for the world. Another new member calls the church "the place where you can make a fresh start" – your life, your faith journey, or just another new week of whatever we have to face.
Amistad Chapel UCC is set in a revitalizing rust-belt city, a block from "the house LeBron built," but also close to subsidized housing projects, surrounded by beautifully restored old buildings and others, empty, waiting for new life. Young professionals and empty-nesters flock downtown to live, while others have no home at all, or worry about paying for the one they have. There are people who are physically hungry, spiritually hungry, or both, and plenty who have burdens and baggage to lay down. How will this new congregation, this "fresh start," live out the faith we have, in Cleveland? With God's help, of course.
Sparking Ministry Conversations
If the mission field begins at our front door, as it has been said, who are the people your church is called to serve, right where you are? What surprising new thing is God doing, in the place where you are?
The Rev. Kate Matthews Huey is surprised every day by the wonder of God at work right where we are, in Cleveland, in most unexpected ways.