...ALL Neighbors

| Weekly Word

In a few weeks, you will receive a letter with the new proposed Vision and Mission Statements for Bedford Presbyterian Church. It has been ten years since the church last intentionally examined the congregation's mission and vision. A lot has changed in those years in our congregation, our denomination (the PCUSA), and our nation and world. A Session task force has been working on these proposed Vision and Mission Statements on and off since 2020. When you get these proposed statements, you'll have a chance to comment on them throughout October, hopefully making them even stronger statements that "fit" who we are as a church.

As part of the proposed Mission Statement, there is one phrase that has been present in each and every draft over the past year and a half: our mission is to actively "love God and all neighbors." These are challenging words. Just how are we supposed to love God and ALL our neighbors? Clearly, there are some neighbors that you and I might find easier to love than others. And yet, in the life and example of Jesus, we find story after story and loving act after loving act where Jesus loves all of his neighbors, both those considered unlovable by society and those who did not love Jesus in return. We find Jesus loving sinners and tax collectors, lepers as well as scribes, Pharisees and Romans (both the powerless and the powerful), the outsiders and the insiders, those who are outcasts from society, and those who are favored by society.

If our mission at BPC is to actively love God and ALL neighbors - no matter who they are - what does this look like?

We see examples of this in church life, in the ways that we welcome and nurture the children of our church. In the ways we learn names and faces. In the ways we will welcome guests and reconnect with others this coming Sunday at our "fALL Welcome Party." And in the ways we welcome all to serve God in this place, no matter who they are.

This past week, I saw an example of loving ALL our neighbors at a meeting of BPC's Session . . .

A longtime member of our church - who was raised in our congregation, actively served as a Deacon, and has regularly shared their gifts with us over the years - came to the Session to request that she and her partner be able to hold their wedding at BPC in 2024. With no debate, the Session unanimously voted to approve this wedding request - like it has hundreds (perhaps, thousands) of times over the years. The one thing that made this wedding request different was that it was the first same-gender wedding request ever approved by the Session of Bedford Presbyterian Church for a service to be held at our church. Approving this wedding request also meant that the language in BPC's Manual of Operations needed to be updated - changing "bride and groom" to "the couple," for example. Again, with no debate, the Session voted unanimously to update this language. This vote brings our church's official position on inclusivity more in line with the official position that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has had since 2015 (the year that the PCUSA voted to affirm ALL of its faithful members, no matter who they are).

After the vote on Monday night, someone at the meeting shared that they had previously been unable to get married in a church, but they are proud to be part of a church where they could now get married.

Here's the challenge, friends. In seeking to love ALL neighbors, our Session feels that it is important to make sure that there is a place for our LGBTQ church family members. as well as church family members who might disagree with that sentiment. For 273 years, BPC has been the "big tent" church in Bedford where people of varying backgrounds and persuasions can find and feel at home, and we are still seeking to hold onto that part of who we are because we believe that this is what God is calling us to do - who God is calling us to be.

As a Southerner, I love using the word "y'all" because it implies "all of you - all y'all" (it's also easier to say than "Youse guys"). I've seen some friends in recent years wearing a t-shirt that says "Y'all Means All," as if to say, "All y'all are loved. All y'all are welcome. All y'all can find a home here – a friend here – a church here."

As your pastor, I am proud to serve a congregation willing to challenge themselves to love ALL neighbors. As we begin a new church program year, may we seek to show and share that love in all we say and do. See you in church!

Grace and Peace,

John


Prepare for Worship this week:  
“Loving God Outdoors" (Sacred Pathways - Week 1)

We begin our sermon series based on the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.


Source:  link to the "Y'all Means All" t-shirt to credit the source of the image used in reference to this post.

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