A Progressive Christian Community

I cannot count the number of times people have walked up to us and said, “What kind of dog is this?” We go on to explain Simeon is half Labrador Retriever and half Shar Pei. The responses vary from, “Oh, yes I could see the Lab but was unsure of the other,” to “Oh, yes I can see the Shar Pei but was unsure of the other,” to “Beautiful animal,” to “Interesting.”

I have witnessed the Shar Pei in Simeon with his cleanliness and his sometimes aversion to water, as well as his Labrador when he goes on point, eats something he shouldn’t have like a book, or decides on occasion a deep water swim may not be as bad as he thinks and dives right in. Identity is often important in the world of show dogs and other venues, but mostly for us Simeon is just Simeon whichever personality or breed he happens to be drawing on in the moment.

Identity for we in the human world can be extremely important in knowing who we are, why we do what we do, and for we in the church what and why we believe the way we do. College Hill has had a long history of being identified in a particular way, with a particular cause, and a particular vision. I am humbled to be a part of the journey of College Hill now for this year and a half and look forward with anticipation and hope for what is to come in the next months and years.

I was so pleased to see our identity placed clearly on our Sunday Morning Order of Celebration as well as our Newsletter, “A Progressive United Methodist Community; Wise, Bold, and Graceful.” I believe our vision of being Wise, Bold and Graceful speaks deeply to our commitment about who we have been, who we are, and who we will continue to be. It has been for some time now I have considered the other portion of the statement on the front cover of our Sunday Morning Celebration Folder this identity of A Progressive United Methodist Community. I know what I think that means but I wondered as we have journeyed together if that is as clear for others as it is for me, or at least as clear as I think it is for me.

There is a group that is perhaps little known in some church circles regarding Progressive Christianity I have found helpful in my own understanding, The Center for Progressive Christianity at http://www.tcpc.org/template/index.cfm this site have a wealth of resource and information regarding the Progressive movement. Let me share with you the Eight Points they use to speak of what it means to be a Progressive Christian,
This from The Center for Progressive Christianity website,

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who…
1. Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life.
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to: Conventional Christians, questioning skeptics, believers and agnostics, women and men, those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, of all classes and abilities.
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fllest expression of what we believe.
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes.
6. Strive for peace and justice among all people.
7. Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth.
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning compassion, and selfless love.

Many, if not all of these guidelines are contained in our own documents of vision and mission, and these are certainly not considered to be the all in all of a Progressive Christian Community but a template and place to begin discussion.

As part of my own pondering about what it means to be College Hill and a Progressive United Methodist Community we will be venturing into a new Sermon Series beginning this Sunday, January 8, 2012. The Series is actually a two part series as we journey through these initial days of the New Year and then into Lent and will finally wrap up the two part series on Easter Sunday.

The first Series is a seven week journey into some of the theological considerations as we find those identifiers that mark us as a Progressive Community. We will look at the topics of God, Jesus, Prayer, Baptism, Communion, Sin, and the Cross. I believe it is important as we think about these in terms of what they mean for us and how we experience and live out our faith and wrestle with why we believe what we believe about these.

The second Series is also a seven week journey through Lent to Easter into ways we live out our faith based on what we might believe about God, Jesus, Prayer, etc., how then do we encounter the world around us and embrace those around us and speak and serve in a posture of love, grace, and welcome, perhaps in other words, how then we to BE Wise, Bold, and Graceful in our church, in our city, in our world. I hope you will join us as we continue to be College Hill UMC, and continue to visit and revisit who we say we are and why it is important for our community and world.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.

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