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"What Is Your Preamble?"
I was involved in a church start-up about a year ago. In fact, we are getting ready to celebrate our one year anniversary in just a few weeks. After leaving full-time ministry, I decided to start a church with a pastor friend of mine. We both wanted to start a church that was progressive in its theology, as well as open and affirming of all. We decided to name the church after St. Thomas the Apostle. Like Thomas we all struggle spiritually. We wanted a community of faith where people could feel comfortable and secure in expressing their doubts and questions. St. Thomas Community Church of Roanoke seeks to be a community of faith where we learn and grow together in our faith. We do not claim to have all the answers or to know the whole truth, but we are searchers and seekers together.
Over the past few months, we have been working on writing our Constitution and By-laws. This has been a major step in the establishment of St. Thomas as an official church and we are excited.
When I was in elementary school I had to learn the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. In fact, each fourth grade student had to individually recite it for the principal in her office. I remember being extremely nervous as I stood before Mrs. Eliot, the principal, who seemed to be both incredibly tall for a woman and ancient. There I stood and recited,
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
A "constitution" is a body of principles to which an organization is acknowledged to be governed. A "preamble" is an introductory statement that explains a purpose, philosophy or belief.
For St. Thomas Community Church of Roanoke our preamble is simple: "to be a progressive Christian community that is growing spiritually as we express the love of God through worship, caring, sharing and serving." We have no official dogma, doctrine, creed or statement of faith that one needs to adhere to in order to a part of this community of faith, only to be and to share the love of God.
If you had to write a preamble to your life what would be affirm? I have been thinking about this a lot as I have been working on St. Thomas' Constitution and By-laws.
At the onset of Jesus' ministry he shared his preamble in a synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. As he stood to read from the Torah, he read the words of the prophet Isaiah, "'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:18-19 NRSV).
I can't think of a better preamble or statement that defines our purpose, philosophy and belief. What is your life's preamble?
Now, I am going to be honest with you. Mrs. Elliot scared the hell out of me, but I will never forget the sense of pride that overcame her that day in her office when I recited those words. Her stern expression quivered into a grin; and her stoic demeanor melted as she hugged me. I stood there dumbfound. I just assumed this was her permanent expression and personality. I didn't think she knew how to smile or laugh or be kind. I never saw her in the same light again.
But I have this same pride as I work on St. Thomas' Constitution and By-laws. I am filled with joy and love as I imagine our small community of faith being a part of something greater - a movement toward wholeness, where justice and mercy, love and grace are lived out.