Words from our Pastor: “What This Church is All About”
I walk through our beautiful sanctuary and see the plaque that reads, "In honor of Rev. Adam Blakeman, born in Staffordshire, England, 1598; a scholar of Christ College, Oxford; Preacher of the gospel in Leicestershire and Derbyshire and in the wilderness of the new world; first minister of the church of Stratford from 1639 until his death in 1665." You have no idea how humbling that is to read. Our first pastor was born in the same century that Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli forged the Protestant Reformation; the same century that the Gregorian calendar was adopted and Copernicus theorized that the earth revolved around the sun; the century of William Shakespeare and Michelangelo.
What kind of foundation does it take for a pastor to begin a church that weathers more than three and a half centuries? I started a church in Cary, N.C. in 1988. I wonder if it will still be there for the next generation, let alone the next three centuries. It wasn’t a wonderful colonial building that made this possible. It was something far more. It was a commitment to Jesus Christ and his church lived out in covenant. What I’ve always loved about covenantal theology is that it calls us to embrace what we will do as much as what we will believe.
The first covenant in the new world read like this: “We do bynde our lives to walk together in all God’s ways.” African American churches say, “It’s not only talking the talk but walking the walk.” In the United Church of Christ (U.C.C.) Statement of Faith, we confess, “You call us into your church to accept the cost and joys of discipleship, to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ’s baptism and eat at His table, to join Him in His passion and victory.”
It’s one thing to adhere to a set of beliefs. It’s another to commit to a way of life. Faith has as much to do with calloused hands as with enlightened minds. As James wrote, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I, by my works, will show you my faith.” Or as Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”
Our faith is not built on simply adhering to a creed but also by committing to a way of life, a way of sacrifice, of commitment, of joy in service, of mission, that allows a church after 350+ years to not only weather the storms and survive, but to thrive, to grow, and be a beacon to the people of Stratford in these uncertain times, and in the shifting moral and spiritual tides of the 21st century. That’s what this church is all about.
Rev. Edward Rawls - Senior Pastor