This month our congregation celebrated its 30th anniversary. We did so with a joyful banquet on Saturday night and a celebratory worship service on Sunday morning. The theme of the weekend drew upon Peter’s dual commission to “Feed My Sheep” and “Follow Me”.
In the remarks preceding the banquet and the announcements preceding worship, we introduced our charter members, of whom we are justly proud for their long and strong commitment to our church. We also heard a very brief history of the earliest days of our congregation, which predates any and all of our wonderful charter members by at least six years. Somehow, it seemed the faithful thing to do, to look back with appreciation to those who had the germ of an idea of a congregation to serve Jesus Christ in what was then an undeveloped corner of the county.
Those who had been inspired by the Holy Spirit with that vision were not our charter members. Nor were they persons who subsequently became members of Wekiva. They were members of other Presbyterian congregations, that is, churches in the Presbytery. Thirty-seven years ago and more, these visionary and faith filled men and women of the Presbytery saw visions and dreamed dreams. They saw the need for a church and dreamed of there being one where there was only a vacant field of sabal palms and scrub brush.
These visionary and faith filled men and women of the Presbytery decided that the land should be bought and they gave the money that paid for it.
These visionary and faith filled men and women of the Presbytery chose to set a side funds for New Church Development.
These visionary and faith filled men and women of the Presbytery identified an outstanding organizing pastor and they paid his terms of call.
These visionary and faith filled men and women of the Presbytery nurtured and guided the fledgling congregation by prayers and guidance and support which included many years of annual stipends which they gave to our Session until the congregation became capable of meeting its own budget.
It was the faithfulness of our Presbytery forebears that brought about our congregation. And the truth is this: Every Presbyterian congregation, no matter its age or circumstances has this same story at the inauguration of its life and ministry, be it thirty-seven or two hundred and thirty-seven. We are all in debt to the talents, the vision and the faithfulness of those who have come before us. We would honor them best by remembering that we stand on their shoulders; that the church facilities are placed into our hands in trust–they are not ours. For practical purposes, they are the Presbytery’s and for eternal purposes, they are the Lord’s.
Would that every pastor and elder who flirts with the idea of becoming part of a movement to withdraw understood such things. For, were they persons of ethical integrity, having objections to the course of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), their proper action would be to fold their tents and to depart by themselves alone, leaving the denomination with nothing more than that which they came in to it. Thereby, leaving the congregation and its resources where they belong, in the visionary and faith filled hands of the men and women of the Presbytery.
We are, all of us — pastors and people, elders and laypersons — simply stewards, only renters, merely leaseholders. No one in the world of real estate would confuse such as these with the property owner. Nor did the Lord Jesus in any of His many parables confuse the laborers in the vineyards and fields with the Great Land Owner. Why would we?
John A. Dalles is Pastor of Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida