To the First Presbyterian Church family,
I have been a part of the church my whole life, and I still remember a ditty that we sang in Sunday School: “The church is not the building, the church is not the steeple, the church is the people.” Of course, ten-year-old me would have never known that I would one day pastor a church with an impressive steeple. This steeple points to more than just our individual church but to Jesus the son of God and His church universal.
Back in the spring you might remember the Literacy Council of Norristown, longtime tenants here, hosted a work group from Deloitte accounting firm who came in here to spruce up. (If you haven't yet, please thank Cindy Serratore for her work in coordinating all of this with Literacy!) It was my job as pastor to give them a tour of such an impressive facility, and I even took a few of their braver ones up into that steeple (after they signed all the legal waivers!). I heard some version of the compliment "what a beautiful church!" many times that day, and I reflected on how true that statement is, and in ways beyond their probable meaning.
Some subsequent events this last summer did put the proper community aspect of "church" into focus for me. First, the Greater Norristown Area Ministerium hosted a community Vacation Bible School for the third straight summer, and I have participated in it each time as a teacher and helping hand. When we gathered in the library's community room, it was not about the individual churches represented there by their pastors and members (Norristown Baptist, Mt Zion AME, Grace Tabernacle 7th Day Adventist, to name a few) but rather about the one true church of Jesus Christ, ministering to our community's young people. When we host the ministerium's Maundy Thursday service again in the spring, it won't be a service of and for First Presbyterian but simply of the Church of Jesus Christ, meeting in our beautiful sanctuary.
More recently, Central Presbyterian Church celebrated twenty years of Spanish ministry, twelve of them in this building. They are not just another community church but one also blessed by this building AND bound to us by denomination. I wrote extensively about this last summer when I was coming off my time as commissioner to the PC(USA)'s General Assembly, but suffice it to say here, the denomination's function is to be a connectional community for the church, bound together by mutual creed and care for one another. Our Presbytery's Executive leader, Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, herself a child of Puerto Rican immigrants, was present at their anniversary banquet and gave a blessing. She served at the same General Assembly with me and was actually elected to Co-Moderator. I won't belabor us here with an explanation of what all these denominational offices and institutions are, but once again the function is service to the community of Christ. Of course, anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected IS a member of the Church. But to be a member of this church means to be a part of the network of mutual care. I hope we can have a members/inquirer's discussion soon, and please keep checking your regular emails and bulletins.
And most recently, we had our annual church picnic, hosted for the seventh straight summer by Judy & Bob Meeker. You'll see a recap in this week's bulletin (at the time of this sending) but we truly were a church the afternoon of August 27. We just happened to be gathered in a beautiful backyard by a pool. Our downtown building may have been seven miles away, but that was irrelevant. The community of Christ was there, in that place and in that time, and thanks to the hospitality of some long-time members!
For the building and steeple, what did Deloitte do for it but help us be a better host for the Maundy service and for tenants like Literacy Council, Central Pres, and others. That too is part of our task as a community - to be stewards of this incredible facility. We are a church and we are partners in taking care of this building, the wider church of believers in Norristown, and of course . . . each other.
I Corinthians 12:12
~Pastor Peter Martin