by Bobbi Smisko, Methacton congregation
The word ubuntu came to mind today as I reflected on our growing church community. Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu word that is often translated as humanity towards others, but the translation I love best is I am because you are. This thought holds the nugget of Christian belief that without the community, we cannot be whole. We need each other.
We at Methacton congregation are currently living into the meaning of ubuntu. We are a diverse church community located in a middle- to upper-middle-class suburban area. We are unlike the original founders in dress, lifestyle, and some worship forms but we hold the same inner values presented to us clearly by Jesus so many years ago—the greatest value being Love.
Most of our members do not live near the church. We are scattered in every direction, in some cases thirty miles from our building. But we are never disconnected in our hearts. During the week, we are the church in various ways. We call each other to chat, lend a hand, take meals to the sick, volunteer at a prison, feed the homeless, and support mission around the world. We come together during the week for a memoir writing group, to make knitted throws for an inner-city mission, to maintain the building and grounds, or to plan for our future. Soon after beginning to attend Methacton, folks discover that they are needed in some way, that their gifts will help to bond us even closer.
In our small congregation of approximately fifty people, with an average of thirty-five attending on any given Sunday, we have some families who were brought up as Mennonites, a few having been in our congregation since they were children. Others have moved from diverse faith backgrounds and easily blend into our family. One family arrived here from Tanzania several decades ago and their children were raised to adulthood here. One couple came from Eritrea and found a safe place here after escaping as refugees from the terror in their home country. We have members who grew up as preacher’s kids and folks who are new to Christian faith and everyone in between. And we welcome everyone through our doors.
We also are building pathways to our neighbors. A tragic occurrence brought us all together some months ago when our massive, historic, nearly 400-year-old oak tree suddenly spilt in two and fell to the ground, barely missing several people who had gathered to check on it after a branch had fallen.
The whole neighborhood mourned the loss; they had found great joy in its beauty, grace, and history. It had stood for generations as a beacon of hope. We had phone calls and notes and people stopping at the church to ask how they could help. Out of that great loss came opportunities to join in special occasions of remembering and establishing deeper relationships within the township. In concert with the local historical society, we now hold an annual Celebration of the Oak Tree.
Seeds for this community in Fairview Village were planted years ago—280 years ago, to be exact. They took root, surviving many seasons of struggle. These days, our Sunday worship is eclectic, creative, deeply spiritual, and brought forth with great love for the God we all worship and for one another. We listen to each other’s God Stories and are instilled with new hope about how God works within us.
We are building genuine Christian community here at Methacton. Our goal is to answer the call of Jesus as he prayed to his father, “Make them One as you and I are One.” I believe we are on the path to that end.