A newsletter message written for St. David's Episcopal Church, Kinnlon, NJ
One of the longest-running jokes about the differences between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church says, simply, that the Episcopal branch of the catholic faith is “Catholic Lite”. This came to mind again, last month, as I was preparing to mark our recognition of new members in the liturgy.
Growing up in the United Methodist Church, there was a time at the end of every Sunday service when people would be invited to join the church, and to proclaim a commitment to membership. In that liturgical act, new members would be asked to pledge to support the church with their “prayers, presence, gifts, and service”. I thought about that as I was planning to celebrate our own new members: what does membership mean in the Episcopal Church?
As a reminder, for the liturgy, this is what I came up with: “in the Episcopal Church we take our faith and our membership in the church seriously:
· We pledge to engage with ideas and to continue searching for the truth of Christ in the world around us.
· We pledge to ask questions that bring us and this community closer to God.
· We pledge to support one another through times of need, crisis, and troubled faith.
· We pledge to pray for the church and for one another, to attend worship services whenever possible, and to give generously to the church of our resources of time, talent, and treasure.
· We pledge to work with and through the church to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.”
It wasn’t intentional, but I noticed afterwards that this 5-point pledge mirrors, somewhat, the five pledges we make in our baptismal covenant:
· Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
· Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
· Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
· Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
· Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
It’s worth asking: what does it mean to you to be a member of the Episcopal Church, and of St. David’s, in particular? These are two ways of expressing what it means to be a member of the church, but you also are likely to have reasons of your own, and ways of expressing this commitment that are unique to you.
For most of us, I don’t think it’s “Lite” - Catholic, or otherwise! We take our faith, and our relationships with one another seriously. For new members, the feeling is fresh. But we all should take some time to consider what the church means to us, and how we share that meaning with each other, and with the world.