Ken Kovacs orients us to the themes that we’re engaging this fall: connection, community, and belonging.
Over the summer, in meetings (both within the church and the wider community) and in conversations with a variety of people in the congregation, three related words began to emerge: connection, community, and belonging. Earlier this year, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy warned that isolation and loneliness pose a profound public health threat. More than half of the U.S. adults experience loneliness, which has consequences for mental and physical health, including a greater risk of depression, anxiety, as well as heart disease, stroke, and dementia. The U.S. is certainly not alone in this regard. Back in 2018, in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness. These trends toward social isolation were noticeable before COVID, but, like so much in our lives, the pandemic accelerated rates of change.
It’s clear that many people these days—of all ages—are searching for connection, for community, a place where they feel they belong, where they feel welcomed, affirmed, and safe, a place where they can grow and thrive and flourish.
These are, of course, theological themes. The Bible has a lot to say about belonging and community, about the need to connect with neighbors and strangers, with the environment and the wider world, with God, and with ourselves. The church, therefore, has something invaluable to offer the world in this regard.
Starting in September, the program year will center around these themes of connecting and belonging, that is, deepening our understanding of what it means for us to be a community of the Risen Christ called to love neighbor, God, and self. You’ll see our theme reflected in all areas of our life together, in worship, educational offerings for children, teens, and adults, through mission and justice advocacy, and in fellowship opportunities. We’ll explore ways to deepen our connection with each other, with the wider community, with the environment, and ultimately, with God.
The early Church Father and theologian Tertullian (c.160–c.225) tells us that Roman society was shocked and often confused by the way Christian communities lived and practiced their faith. “Behold, how they love one another.” It’s the love of God that calls us into community, into the church, and it’s love that grounds, forms, and reforms God’s people, to be people of that “still more excellent way,” as Paul said. (1 Cor. 12:31). May we (re)discover this love at work within and among us this year, and then share it with our neighbors, especially those searching for a place to belong.