Mandy Hall is a CEF member and Director of Christian Education at Plymouth UCC in Fort Collins, CO. Read more from Mandy at Soul Tending.
Last week I had the joy and privilege to attend the Christians Engaged in Faith Formation conference in Nashville, TN. This conference is hosted by an association of primarily professional United Methodist Christian Educators. It gathered together people whose experience in Christian education spanned since before I was born to college students discerning their call to ministry. Some people traveled from the UK while others were Nashville natives. Many worked in local churches while others write for publishing houses or in non-profits. Some are generalists others work with elders or youth or children. It truly was a great cloud of witnesses with a deep well of knowledge; sitting at the feet of the masters, learning, listening, sharing stories.
At one of our worship services we sung the old hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” set to a new tune. These old words came to life, were given new meaning, and spoke truth into our gathering space, all because the notes behind them changed. The message never changed, but a new delivery made the message easier to hear.
Surrounded by fellow educators, I was struck by this hymn. We all come from different ministry contexts, yet our call to ministry is the same. We are Christ bearers, we share the good news, we help you to interpret the love of God in your life. Our methods differ, our platforms of communication keep evolving, but the message of God’s love is eternal. At the end of the day, we were all connected and a part of the community of saints.
“Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.” This is what the church has to offer, this community and sense of connection to something bigger and greater. I reflected on this while sitting in the airport waiting to board my plane. I was surrounded by people, and yet I was alone and disconnected in the midst of the crowd. This is the reality of the world in which we live, we appear to be in community and yet too often we are disconnected.
This is why we need the church. We need to connect to the people of God! Our faith is magnified by community. God’s grace grows in the fertile soil of church connection. We need church to help us see where God is in this world and in our lives.
We need you in the church. We need you to come home and share your stories of encounters with the Holy on the mountains, in your baby’s smile, in the peaceful passing of a loved one. We need you to point to these glimpses of grace and help us to connect to the movements of the Spirit outside our community.
We need the church and the church needs you. Come and teach us new tunes to the same Gospel words. Come and learn a new way to sing when your old song looses its meaning. Blest be the tie that binds, and may each of you be blessed with the love of Christ this day and every day.