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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Moving Forward

This morning, my family and I transferred our church membership to the Cresskill Congregational United Church of Christ. We've been attending there for a few weeks and were glad to be able to formalize things. I'm particularly pleased to be part of the church at Cresskill because it is a church that reflects many of the core values that were not expressed at the church I recently pastored.

First, and perhaps most significant, is that they are, unabashedly, a part of the United Church of Christ and make a point of reinforcing that on a regular basis. They have UCC posters hung on the walls, they use the UCC bulletin covers, they have a large UCC logo on the side of the church building, they highlight social issues championed by our denomination and they regularly refer to themselves as Cresskill UCC, rather than just as "Cresskill Congregational." While they still cherish their Congregationalist roots, they have embraced the new life that came with their joining the UCC a half century ago.

Second, the church is an Open and Affirming congregation, which means that they have gone through a formal process of discussion and discernment and have made an official statement that they are welcoming and fully inclusive of LGBTQ people. Again, they have made it a point of pride to announce their O & A status on all of their documents, saying "We are an Open and Affirming congregation!" For my son's sake, I am very glad to be able to have the social messages that my wife and I teach in our home reinforced in church.

Another thing that makes me happy about our new chuch home is that, in the fall, my son will be able to attend Sunday school as well as church because the two programs are not scheduled opposite each other. While I know that many churches schedule the two programs concurrently and point to the fact that the parents are able to worship while their children are educated, I can't help but believe that it is inherently better if everyone has the opportunity to attend Christian education classes AND to go to worship. That way, everyone's mind and spirit are fed and families have the opportunity to worship God together. While I don't have any data to support my hunch, I also suspect that including children in worship prepares them to be active parts of the congregation following their confirmation, an outcome that seems sorely lacking where young people are segregated from the rest of the church.

That was the morning. After church, Kimberly and I took our son up to Silver Lake, the camp and conference center run by the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. Back in the 1990s, when I was serving churches in Connecticut, I used to lead week-long sessions at Silver Lake, where I taught teenagers clowning skills -- makeup, skitwriting, improv, juggling, etc. -- and then helped them put together a program for the rest of the campers. Even before my son was old enough to be a camper, he wanted to be a part of Silver Lake's magic and this is now his fifth year as a camper. These days, he's looking forward to being old enough to be a part of the camp's staff.

So it looks like Kimberly and I will have a quiet week, hanging around the house, going to the shore, maybe going cycling or canoeing, and I'll try to get my sailboat ready for when our niece comes to visit us next week. Ah, summer!

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