What is the “Church?” This is one of the questions I will be asking myself this summer. One of my favorite, and perhaps most complete answers to this question is that the Church is a community. However, it is not just any community. The Church is not a sports team, or a service organization, or a study group. It is, in the words of the famous hymn, a community whose foundation is Jesus Christ. It is a group of people who are united in their love of God and seek to live that love out through fellowship and service to the world.
My internship this summer began with an introduction to the community of First UMC of Birmingham, MI at the Pokagan state park in Indiana. There a group of about 60 people gathered, some in tents, pop-up trailers, and RVs. Others at a nice lodge. I was excited to have the holiday weekend to get to know some of the members better, however, I was not expecting to be so impressed by the congregation.
The weekend, from a camping perspective was a disaster. The weather was cool (cold by Florida standards) and grey for the entire weekend. The only exception was the little bit of sun that peaked through clouds which quickly turned into thunderstorms and a tornado watch that send the whole group into the basement where the power went out for 6 hours. As I said, it was a disaster. However, from a community perspective it was amazing. They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and the children who went camping that weekend were being raised by the village of FUMC-B. Despite the storms and weather the group functioned as a common unit. Watching each others children, making sure that no one was lost. In the middle of the storm and hail, some of the men held out a tarp so that they could grill and cook our dinner. It was impressive (and delicious). When one of the children went missing (she was outside playing with some other kids) the parents immediately came to attention and began the search. At times during the weekend, it was difficult to determine which children belonged to which parents.
However, the Church is not a just a group of close friends. As we sat around the campfire on the last evening when the children went to bed, the parents began to talk about their children. Their commitment to raising their children with a passion for God and hearts in service to the world was inspiring. One man mentioned how much he missed doing as many service trips now that he was a father, but he hoped that in his raising his son to be a Christian that he was doing his mission for the Church. He is.
This summer I am going to learn many answers and ask even more questions, but if that weekend was any indication, my experience here is going to provide me with an opportunity to meet some amazing people who help to build an amazing Church.