I am a United Methodist. My wife and I joined a United Methodist church in Sugar Land, Texas before moving to Nashville, TN, and when we moved to Iowa, we transferred our membership to a church that was just down the street from our house. We went through the ceremony for becoming a member of the local congregation. and I was captivated by the questions that were asked of us before our fellow United Methodists.
- As members of Christ’s universal church, will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?
- Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church and uphold it by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service. and your witness?
I like the language that the United Methodist church uses, like “open hearts, open minds, open doors,” and “In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity.” The fact that they refer to Christs “universal church” in the membership ceremony is proof of their willingness to consider the place and the story of each of the individuals in their organization. I am finding that the liturgy is an effective way for me to engage in the ceremonies, and I am beginning to appreciate the words, poems, prayers and songs of the generations that have gone before me as valuable to my walk in faith and in providing me with a platform from which to grow and learn.
I like to use the metaphor of the symphony for the church. There are no symphonies with one musician. There are not many with ten, though the music can be adapted. You need a broad range of instruments to make the music come alive, and every time you add an instrument you add a dynamic element to you range and effectiveness. The importance of the individual and his or her instrument is paramount in that metaphor, but so is the sheet music, and the conductor, and the space. It is not a perfect metaphor, metaphors are not intended to be, but I think it creates a nice picture of what one’s role might be in the structure that can be frustrating without a clear understanding of what one is doing there.
The United Methodist Church is not perfect, as none of the organizations run by people are, but there is a healthy struggle within the church to understand the larger picture and to engage in the story of God in our lives, and that is something that we all should be involved in. The United Methodist church was originally a movement that challenged people to rethink religion and follow Jesus, and they continue to pursue the idea of rethinking church in our culture in order to transform the world.