At the beginning of each year, as a UMC church in the Wisconsin Conference, Centenary submits a statistical report which includes attendance and membership data. This year, we reported a membership total of 258 and an average worship attendance for 2013 of 96. This means that in 2013, on average, we had over 150 members that did not attend worship services the entire year.
Now, on the one hand, every member of our church has stood before God and this congregation and taken vows of membership. These vows were specifically to support Centenary UMC with their prayers, their presence (worship attendance), their gifts (abilities/financial), their service (volunteering) and, recently, we also say witness (Christian life and testimony). As Christians first and members of Centenary UMC second, we have given our word to make a relationship with Jesus Christ the top priority in our life. This is most readily accomplished by fulfilling the vows of membership we made before Him and His church, locally to Centenary UMC. Attending a weekly worship service with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ inspires, reminds, refines, grows and connects us more fully to God, to each other and His Kingdom; equipping us to serve Him in our local community and the world. As a member of God’s church and Centenary UMC regular worship attendance, except in cases of physical limitation, is essential.
However, on the other hand, those of us who were present and witnessed our brothers and sisters in Christ be baptized, confirmed and/or take these vows of church membership, also took a vow of our own: to surround our members with a community of love and forgiveness. To be a community of love and forgiveness at Centenary UMC requires a loving relationship with God and loving interpersonal relationships with each other. How many of the 96 average worship attendants have reached out in love to the over 150 members that are not? How many of those 150 or more members do we even really know or even had a conversation with? I have no doubt that, in the eyes of God, there is as much emphasis on those of us who were present when folks became members to fulfill that vow of community and relationship as there is for those who made membership vows to fulfill them.
None of us would be active or attending worship at Centenary UMC if it wasn’t for the loving relationships we have with each other. The miracle and hope of Easter has been made known to us to not only celebrate ourselves but to celebrate for those who are seeking the love and hope that Easter offers. Thus, it is essential to the mission, survival and growth of this church that we fulfill this vow of being a community of love and forgiveness through loving relationships with God and each other. This should be our highest priority. Love God, love others and then, and only then, can we make disciples of the risen Christ. I have no doubt that this is the way God would want us to celebrate not only Easter, but every day of the life He has given us.