Because Christianity grew from roots that were Judaism, it should not surprise us that Jesus was firmly rooted in the Jewish tradition. Examples abound: his followers acknowledge him as “rabbi” (teacher) and his preaching is drawn from material in the Hebrew Bible. The Passion narrative is best understood within a context of Passover. Pentecost is a spiritual “first fruit” built on the idea of a Jewish “first fruit” festival. Jesus’ ministry was a renewal movement, not one to create a new religion, but one to introduce spiritual renewal among God’s chosen people. Our calling here at Hilltop is about spiritual renewal to all who come through our doors.
I talk at times about “The New Hilltop.” I wrote in our annual church conference report as a goal for 2013:
Define The New Hilltop: Acknowledge that a “new” Hilltop is being created before our eyes and we are creating it with God’s help. How do we use the various metrics of Vital Congregations augmented by our own metrics to measure that vitality? We will, as a community, identify what it means to be a church that wants to grow through an intentional and concerted focus on families with children and youth? This time next year we should be able to align our resources, i.e. building, people, and budget with that identity.
While those words focused on the idea of “families with children and youth,” the idea was in reality more than a “New” Hilltop; it is about a “Renewed Hilltop” full of people of all ages and backgrounds who are renewed in the Spirit. I want to focus on one result of the “The Renewed Hilltop” -- the need to add a second worship service.
How can we best provide meaningful, spiritual worship as our faith community expands?
For many years Hilltop had three worship services. Hilltop made an important decision last year to move to one. This decision was bold. Part of the covenant to consolidate into one service included revisiting that decision at a future date. At the March Church Council a proposal to create the paradigm for a second service was presented by the Worship Committee and me. The simple idea of the proposal was that when a six-week moving average (not including Easter or Cantata Sunday) reached more than 275 worshippers and when we had 100 members in covenant to support the second service, we would launch at a future, yet-to-be-determined date (but not immediately.)
Discussion from the council encouraged us to go back and re-think some basic assumptions.
It is always important to ask: “how do you know what you know?” When that question emerged this past month, we were not precisely sure what we knew, why we knew it, or how we knew it. We did know facts, e.g., attendance at the three services, attendance since the merger. Even though the leaders have talked to various groups about going to a second service, we do not know exactly what the congregation as a whole thinks. We agreed that it would be good for us in our continuing attempt to “renew” Hilltop to take some focused time to ask the congregation very specific, directed, and targeted questions about worship and, importantly, Christian Education.
We plan to discuss some of this following worship on April 21st if at all possible, and between April 21st and May 19th present a questionnaire (or survey instrument) in which the congregation can express their wisdom and insight. I heard loud and clear during last summer’s “ice breakers” that we had done enough “surveys.” That said, I think the critical element of that lament was the congregation saw little relationship between any survey and direction of the church. Your church leadership believes for us to understand renewal at Hilltop, we need to receive congregational feedback about options and potential directions of renewal at Hilltop first.
Paul in his 1st Letter to the Church in Corinth focused on an idea of “the body” and how each part of the body was important to the whole. It was an entreaty to the idea of “oneness” and an appeal for genuine appreciation of the other. I pray that our need to go through the process of discussion and planning for expansion to another service at some future date enhances the “oneness” we have felt since going to one service. I pray that our quest for “oneness” produces fruit for Hilltop’s spiritual “renewal” and our own.
Selah. Pastor Dennis