March 13, 2006

Looking Ahead to March 19 -- 3rd Sunday of Lent

Once again this Sunday we will celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism and welcome another of God's children into our family.

The Scripture Readings will be (read them here):
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Exodus 20:1-17
  • Responsive Reading: Psalm 19 (VU p.740)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
  • From the Gospel: John 2:13-22
The Hymns will be:
  • 399 God, Whose Love is Reigning o'er Us
  • 442 Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters
  • 646 We Are Marching (sung 3 times)
  • 605 Jesus Teacher Brave and Bold
The Sermon title is: Membership has its Privileges (and Responsibilities)
Membership, what is it? Why do it? What are its privileges and responsibilities?Every year at the Annual Meeting we make a motion that grants voting right to adherents. Why do we do that?
That motion is made each year because, by the by-laws of the United Church of Canada, only full members have the right to vote at congregational meetings. In fact, even that motion we make each year is limited to what the church calls temporal matters. Adherents can not vote on items of worship policy (same-gender mariage for example) or on issues around Pastoral Relations (calling a new minister) or on major property issues (a building campaign, selling a building, etc.). Thus one of the major privileges of membership in the United Church is the ability to have a say in what goes on. Membership also allows one to explore becoming a candidate for ministry,to be an Elder/Board member, to serve as a Presbytery Representative (or as a delegate to Conference, or as a General Council Commissioner). Membership has its privileges.
A Full Member of the church is a person who has either been baptized as an adult or has been baptized and confirmed. They may become a member of a different congregation or denomination by having their membership transferred (a certificate of transfer given by their previous congregation is needed for this). All the members of the church throughout its history are listed, in chronological order, on the Historic Roll. The date they became a member and how (profession of faith, transfer etc) as well as, when applicable, the date they ceased to be a member and how (death, transfer, action of the Board) are noted. These are the people who have the privileges of membership.
But of course membership has responsibilities as well--all privileges come with responsibilities. Members have the responsibility to support, in whatever way they can, the work of the church. They have a responsibility to maintain a connection to the church. They have a responsibility to live out their faith as best they can.
The irony in many United Churches is that adherents, those who are not full members, often outnumber the active members. Adherents are often major supporters of the church both financially and in gifts of time. As a church body we encourage adherents to explore making a profession of faith and becoming members. In the end the privileges of membership are not always what we call important about why we come to church. Anyone is welcome to partake of communion. Anyone is welcome to mark the death of a loved one in our walls. Anyone is welcome to join us for regular worship and fellowship. But membership is a way of making a statement about importance. It is a way to ensure you have a voice in the running of the church (although we always strive to listen to the voices of those who are there).

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