Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April 1, 2009 - A 150th Birthday Party

On Sunday afternoon, I had a small role in the worship service commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Presbytery of Monmouth – the regional governing body of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Monmouth Presbytery has administrative responsibility for 47 churches in this part of central New Jersey.

All I did was read a brief scripture lesson, but the Asbury Park Press photographer chose that moment to snap the color photo that graced the front page of our local-news section on Monday. There I was, right in the middle of it.

For those of you blog readers who’ve been wondering what I look like as I’m doing my preacherly thing, here it is:

The church is the Presbyterian Church of Toms River, the largest in the Presbytery. It also happens to be the church in which I grew up, and where I served for a few years in the 1980s as Assistant Pastor.

150 years is a long time. Far longer than any human lifetime. Some of the congregations of the Presbytery are even older. Shrewsbury was founded in 1672. Old Tennent dates back to 1685. The church I serve, Point Pleasant, is a youngster compared to these. It was founded in 1882.

It’s often pointed out that corporations, which the law treats as though they were persons, are immortal. The same can be said, I suppose, of churches.

The preacher for the occasion was Rick Ufford-Chase (a former Moderator of the General Assembly, the highest office in the denomination). He made a lighthearted remark about maybe coming back 50 years from now for the Presbytery’s 200th anniversary. Rick is only 6 or 7 years younger than me, which would put him in his mid-90s on that occasion. I’d be 102.

Chances are, I won’t be around for the bicentennial. I’m not even figuring in the lymphoma as I say that, just the ordinary wear and tear of life (not to mention the actuarial tables for males in our culture). Yet, like a business corporation, the church of Jesus Christ lives on, notwithstanding.

Or, maybe not like a corporation. More like another sort of corpus, or body. The Body of Christ.

Now, that’s immortality.

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."

- 1 Corinthians 12.27

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