Learn more about who we are by following our blog, written by our pastor, preacher, and chief evangelist. Engage in the everyday sacred as Abby writes about the deep and ordinary all at once.
"Are we Christians because of what we do believe or what we do? ...My belief system has emerged as a result of my practice--of my doing. I can claim to be a christian (although I still may not be a member of the capital “C” Christian community, but rather a Progressive Christian*) because of what I do."
The summer before 6th grade I went to a little Methodist church camp on Finley Lake in Western New York. The days were filled with swimming, grace before meals, water skiing, evening bible studies, late night games of capture the flag, sneaking into the boys’ dorm, and real, serious conversations about Jesus. The head counselor, Ned, a Methodist pastor who volunteered his entire week just to share his faith with us, had a heart for youth and an inflexible set of beliefs. Nevertheless, he earned my respect because he loved his campers.
I was reared in the Christian faith, but that first summer at church camp I felt called to identify myself as a Christian. Perhaps there was a little too much talk about judgment that week, I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I wanted to make sure I was “in.” I wanted to make sure I was a capital “C” Christian. I asked Ned what I needed to do and his answer was simple, Take Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
That was it. One easy clear formula. Seven words: Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I didn’t know who to say that to, so I wrote those words in a letter to my mom and dad (I can only imagine the worried conversation they had about their newly converted daughter). I am sure some would mark that as the true moment of my conversion. I think of it as a moment when I tried on someone else’s idea of Christianity. I wore it for a few months, but quickly shed it like an old coat. It didn’t fit.
Instead, I have spent the years since Finley Lake Methodist Camp struggling to understand what it means to even call oneself Christian. I have sought after the man from Nazareth with love and commitment, but not with any stronger conviction that I was a capital “C” Christian than when I was 12 years old. This is ironic, especially when considering I have spent my professional career in service to the church as an ordained minister.
Are we Christians because of what we believe or what we do? For Ned becoming a Christian was adopting a set of beliefs. Claiming Jesus as your Lord and Savior represented a belief system. This belief system unlocked membership into capital “C” Christianity. Sadly, even though I was given the password/phrase which granted me membership, I never felt like I was a capital “C” Christian, even though I desired deeply to follow Jesus.
For years now I have been “doing” Christianity. I have been an active member in churches, prayed, volunteered, advocated, and served. And at the end of the day I have done my best to bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1). My belief system has emerged as a result of my practice--of my doing. I can claim to be a christian (although I still may not be a member of the capital “C” Christian community, but rather a Progressive Christian*) because of what I do.
For those of you who are unsure what you believe, overwhelmed by old biblical stories, conflicting Christian beliefs, and evangelical domination of the media, I advise you to ignore it all! I wonder if belief doesn’t more naturally follow practice. I wonder if we shouldn’t first do and let our thinking follow.
As a twelve year old I didn’t need a belief system. I needed a faithful community that volunteered together and adults who openly prayed in front of me. I am certain if some adult had openly shared their imperfect faith practice with me, I would have known deep in my heart that Jesus had claimed me. Offering me a set of beliefs which to adhere never turned my heart to the Gospel. Instead, practicing the Gospel with other stirred in me a ceaseless desire to follow Jesus.
Over the next ten weeks, I will write & preach about the ten things progressive christians DO, not what they believe. The list is not comprehensive, but it is a start. May it serve as an invitation to explore your own faith, so that you can come up with your own list. If you want a sneak peek at Grace Community Boston’s top ten list, click here, or check out the tab entitled Ten Things Progressive Christians DO on this site.
*See early September 2014 blog entitled I am a Progressive Christian
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.