from the September Perspective©
This summer, Plymouth lost two long-time members – Tom Murphy and Joyce Johns. They were very different people with one thing in common: Plymouth Church.
The last time I saw Tom Murphy alive, he was propped up in bed, holding a picture of Plymouth Church. Tom’s illness had progressed to the point that he couldn’t always communicate clearly, but on that day I had no trouble understanding him. “This is my church, Plymouth Church.” Tom had been coming to Plymouth since the church was built in the 1920’s. He’d grown up here and raised his own family here. That day, Tom stared intently at the photo and smiled. “This is my church.” Tom’s memorial service was held at Plymouth on July 16th.
Joyce Johns had had Alzheimer’s disease for ten years before she died in August. Before becoming sick, Joyce had been a long-time member of the choir, starting in the 1960’s. She was known for her stylish dress and presence in the Alto section. Joyce didn’t have any close family, just a few friends. In her will, she stipulated that her ashes be buried in Pennsylvania, but she wanted her memorial service to be held at “my church” – Plymouth Church. Joyce’s memorial service was held at Plymouth on August 18th.
What does it mean to say “Plymouth is my church”? Does it mean Plymouth is where you attend worship? Or is it just where you hold your membership? Maybe you consider Plymouth your church because you go on the annual mission trip or volunteer during Family Promise weeks. Some people consider Plymouth their church because this is where they have marked major milestones – marriages, baptisms, memorial services. Others call Plymouth home because this is where their children attended Sunday school. A few people consider Plymouth their church because they used to be members and all their friends are still here. Still others consider Plymouth their church because they make an annual pledge to support the budget, but do not – or cannot – attend worship.
I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way to define church membership – whether by attendance, service, fellowship or giving. The key is that Plymouth Church is YOUR church – and whether or not Plymouth thrives depends upon you.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I would say, “Be the change you want to see in the church.” If you want an outstanding Sunday school program, volunteer to teach. If you want adult education programs that are exciting, join the Witnessing Department. If you care about outreach to the home bound, sign up to deliver flowers. If you wish there were more fellowship events, host a party. If you love the conversation at coffee hour, sign up to host it. If you are passionate about this historic building, see what help the Building and Grounds Department needs. If you want to see more people in worship, then come to church often – and invite friends. The future is in our hands.
Plymouth Church is not so much a place as it is a community, a family of faithful people striving to live as Christians in a complex world. Christ is the head of the church, but we are the body. Without you, Plymouth can do nothing. With you, Plymouth can do anything! That is the Good News.
I look forward to seeing you all on Home Coming Sunday, September 9th at 10:30 a.m. at Plymouth Church…your church!
Rev. Dr. Shawnthea Monroe
p.s. I’d like to hear more about what makes Plymouth your church. Please join our on-going conversation on this topic and others on the blog at www.plymouthchurchucc.org.