HOW DO I JOIN THE FIRST PARISH CHURCH?
"I had lived my sixty years without ever feeling the slightest need of becoming a member of any kind of organization until last year, when I told myself, 'This will never do... The time would come when reason and reasonableness would need a few shock troops of their own and I considered the Unitarians would be among the advance guard of human decency.'"
"We give up ourselves one unto another in the Lord, resolving by his help to cleave to each other, as fellow members of one Body in brotherly Love and holy Watchfulness over one another, for mutual Edification, and to Submit ourselves to all the Holy administrations appointed by him . . . and to give our constant attendance on all the publick ordinances of Christ's institution, walking orderly as becometh Saints "
"I then in the name of Jesus Christ declare you to be a member in full communion with ye Church. . . . Watching over you for your good with a spirit of meekness love and tenderness earnestly praying that God may take delight in and dwell among us and that by us his kingdom may be advanced."
Covenant used 1751-1782
"A person eighteen years of age or older may become a member of the Church by signing the Church membership book, thereby recognizing that the covenant provides the framework for the public worship and religious education of the Church. . . . A Member of the Church shall be such until he or she submits a written resignation to the Clerk. Nothing herein shall be interpreted to infringe upon any member's individual freedom of belief."
Article III of the Bylaws
"The purpose of the Church is to maintain public worship and religious education under the covenant: In the love of truth and in the spirit of Jesus Christ, we join for the worship of God and the service of humankind."
Article II of the Bylaws
- Share in the life of the Church for awhile, and decide if this is the church for you.
- Discover the purposes of the Church by reading the Bylaws and our historic covenants.
- Attend new member orientation sessions or speak to the Minister about membership.
- Sign the Membership Book.
THE MEANING OF MEMBERSHIP: These pages will suggest some aspects of a rich and fulfilling membership. Basically, it should be said that choosing to become a member is to make an affirmation both about the church, and about oneself. It is to say "Yes" to the church and to your own religious impulses:
- Yes, this place, and what is going on here, is important. It deserves my support.
- Yes, religion has a place in my life, and there are values celebrated here that ought to be cherished and strengthened.
- Yes, worship here nourishes my spirit, and this has become my religious home.
- Yes, the time has come for me to assume some responsibility for the life of the church, to put down roots for myself and my family, to belong.
Coming to the point of making such affirmations should not be done quickly or casually. You will know you are ready when, after sharing in the life of the church for awhile, you find yourself saying this is "my church," the parson is "my minister." The process of joining this church is then a simple matter of "owning the covenant" i.e., you indicate your agreement with the purposes of the Church and your willingness to support it, by signing the membership book.
We also believe that every person is called to a lay ministry. There is a vocation, a task, to which God calls each of us. These calls change with time. Sometimes we are called to minister primarily to our families, other times to reach out in caring to others, sometimes to ministries of social responsibility & sometimes to ministries of prayer. Finding your own calling is a great task of the religious life. As Albert Schweitzer once wrote "I do not know what tasks you will choose in life, but I do know that the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."
One final thought: joining the church seldom means that one has "arrived" at a religious destination, solved all religious questions, or achieved salvation. Rather, to join the church means that you're willing to begin a pilgrimage. The Church is a band of fellow-pilgrims. We are a people who, in the words of the ancient Puritan covenants, would "walk in love one towards another."
Thomas D. Wintle
Joining the church is a decision to become a part of a community called the First Parish Church in Weston. It is also a decision about one's own religious convictions. The meaning of membership thus has both a communal and a personal dimension.
This church came into existence, and it remains in existence, because a group of people have chosen to become a church, to covenant with God and with one another to worship God in this place and to share their religious lives together.
Worship. Sunday morning worship is the heart of the church. We gather to hear and tell the stories of our heritage, to ponder the Word, to be challenged and inspired, to wrestle with questions of faith & hope & love, to pray and sing, and to open our minds and hearts to the Spirit that revives and renews our lives.
Parish Life. We also gather to enjoy one another's company, at area dinners & social events, to study and discuss common concerns, to engage in service projects, to support one another in the quest for religious growth and maturity. We tend to the care of our buildings and church life through committee meetings, educate our children, sing in the choir, and help one another as time and talent allow.
Stewardship. An annual giving campaign, conducted by the Stewardship Committee in the fall, asks people to consider what financial contributions they can make to help support the work of the church. Contributions should be seen not only as paying "our fair share" but also as an expression of our own spiritual life and of our gratitude for life itself. All contributions are kept confidential.
Congregational Meetings. The church belongs to, and is run by, the members. As a democratic organization, the congregation chooses the ministers, elects officers, and adopts the budget. An annual meeting is held in February, and special meetings at other times. All members who have been members for at least six months and have demonstrated a continuing commitment to the Church are eligible to vote.
Of these four, attendance at worship is clearly the major aspect of being a part of the church. The others are matters of "making the most" of your membership and each member's participation is a matter of personal interest and ability.
What church membership means to you personally is a question that only you can answer. It is as difficult to answer as the question "what does it mean to be a Christian?" Indeed, in many ways they are the same question. This church will not define the answer for everyone for all time because we believe that people must be free to grow in faith at their own rate. Thus the personal meaning of church membership is what you choose to make it mean in your own life.
There are, however, four concerns of Christianity, which might serve as useful guidelines:
Kerygma, from the Greek, meaning: the message, that which is preached and believed. Beliefs are important, too important to be left to creeds made binding upon all. In this free church, only you can define what you believe. We agree about the central importance of Christian revelation, and the minister seeks to be faithful to that in his preaching. We also seek to explore the meaning and options of religious beliefs in adult study and discussion groups.
Leitourgia, meaning liturgy, or worship. One receives from worship in proportion to what one puts into it. We learn how to pray & praise, how to examine the depth of our hearts, how to lift our spirits in times of discouragement and to rejoice with thanksgiving, both from the formal prayers of the Church and also from private spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, & study. Each person needs to discover the disciplines that strengthen them, and to have the self-discipline of regular practice.
Koinonia, meaning shared life, or fellowship. People who worship and work together, even and especially in a large church like this, can come to know and care for one another. Friendships can be born. How? See Colossians 3.12-16.
Diaconia, meaning service. A Christian is called to stand for justice and mercy in the world. We best show our faith "in deeds, not creeds," by how we live rather than by what we say. First Parish has a strong tradition of social justice ministry through our Outreach programs, housing the Roxbury-Weston preschool, and various caring ministries of the Church School and the whole Church. Each member needs to find the areas in which they are called to minister to the world.
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Created: Sep 2, 2000 | Modified:
Mon, Dec 11, 2006