Reflecting on St. Andrew’s as a “Small” Church
Maybe it’s just because this column is being written just before our Annual Meeting in which we naturally survey our past and future, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I have been drawn to think about the many Episcopal churches that are small in number, scattered across our nation and in foreign countries as well. Whatever the reason, I have been thinking about being with you in a “small” church.
It turns out that “small” has some important and wonderful positives. Here are a few to consider.
- A small congregation has an important dynamic in which members and friends are truly known. It’s not just the “you’re a stranger only once” approach to welcoming. Rather, we know one another and therefore enter into a depth of relationship that larger churches work so hard to attain. Each one of us is different and we are challenged to be together in community in the midst of and (sometimes) in spite of these differences. This is what makes a small church community important and vital.
- A small congregation means that everyone is important. Everyone counts. When someone hurts, we all hurt. This is a Biblical statement of course when Paul speaks of the church as the Body of Christ. But it also is a reality for a small church. What a gift to be in a Christian community in which we bear one another’s burdens—in good times and in bad.
- A small congregation means that we may be “forced” to enter into collaborative relationships when it comes to mission and outreach projects, mission trips, youth groups. Already our Loaves and Fishes ministry has “forced” us into some wonderful collaborative relationships with individuals from other congregations. This opens the door of possibility thinking as we look to the future.
- A small congregation promotes moving forward through consensus. Because we value our relationships, we move ahead only when we together feel comfortable with the directions we are taking. This does not mean that everyone must agree on everything. But it does mean that consensus building is especially important. Our All-Church Leadership Mini-Retreats help us in this regard.
- A small congregation means that your personal gifts, talents and abilities are critical and will be used. Some of us preach, some of us lead Morning Prayer, some of us focus on financial management, some of us envision and dream, some of us serve at the altar or read, some of us teach and inform, some of us maintain the building, some of us promote fellowship and hospitality. What are your gifts? This Spring we are contemplating a time (Stewardship Time and Talent Fair?) in which we can survey our gifts and abilities together.
Let us give thanks and praise to the Spirit of God, that sustaining force in our midst, that makes our weakness into a spiritual strength that far exceeds our numbers. Let us thank God’s Spirit for giving us one another in the “small but mighty” community known as St. Andrew’s. And thank you for being here and being involved.