The first Sunday of May marks our ninth anniversary as a congregation. When we began, based on our knowledge of the community, the number of Christian families whom we knew did not have a church home, and the number of un-churched people in the area, we thought within two or three years we would have grown to a substantial congregation. But we were wrong. We are still fairly small, although we are growing. The families who have become part of Christ Community bear fruit in vibrant Christian faith. We are far from dead, or "in-grown." " What went wrong?" you might ask. The enigmatic answer is, "The same thing that went right."
Our founding vision, was from the beginning multi generational. That is to say, our aim we to build a community of faith that would be rock solid doctrinally, stable and enduring, producing mature Christians and building strong families. That these households of faith would be built into the household of faith, and the future would see children, with their parents, as well as grand parents worshiping together on Sunday morning. It would be a church that would serve our community, our county long after we were dead and gone. There are serious needs in rural Appalachia. We believed then as we continue to believe now, that we need to be committed to this mission for the long haul. Our goal is healing, not band aids, or Novocaine.
How were we to accomplish this? After much prayer, we determined that our worship should be shaped by the historic liturgy of the Church. We would stick to the center ground, and stay away from peripheral issues that divide the church. It was our best attempt to hold fast to what "all Christians everywhere have believed for all time." We knew that this meant that we could not remain independent, but we had to be connected to the larger body of Christ. We had no idea just how counter cultural, our trajectory was, nor how big of an obstacle this would be to many. Just imagine: an evangelical, independent autonomous congregation, seeking to give up its autonomy, its distinctiveness and above all its "freedom" to become traditional.
More than a few individuals, have visited once, and not returned. Others have come and stayed for a period of time, but determined it just wasn't their style. In honesty there were times that I had my doubts; donning vestments, written prayers, the lectionary, the black shirt and collar, submission to very human Bishops, was all very foreign to my background. However looking back I am more convinced than ever before, that it was the Holy Spirit's leading, and what ever doubts or anxieties I may have had in those early days, have completely vanished.
The bottom line is that this counter cultural direction, while perhaps being the wrong direction if we were trying to quickly attract a crowd, was and is precisely the right direction if we wanted to grow mature steadfast Christians and lay a foundation that would not crumble with the passing of personalities, or religious fads. In the past nine years, we have witnessed around us, multiple church splits, new congregations spring up, and dissolve almost as quickly. We have seen Christians move from church to church in search of one that fits, and we have had our share of losses as well. But we have remained faithful to the vision that God has given us. The liturgy, the sacraments, the episcopacy, and our connection to confessing Anglicans worldwide, have provided for us strength, stability, and a firm foundation on which to build in the years to come.
Christ Community is a church where you can live and grow in Christ, and where your children can become established in the Christian faith, and become fruitful disciples of Jesus. It's a place where new winds of doctrine, will not blow, and the Bible is the very Word of God. It's a place where we stand against the cultural tide of individualism and autonomy by submitting ourselves voluntarily to the authority of Christ Jesus and his Church. It's a church that will welcome you home.