In 1978 John Peck, a Baptist pastor in the southern UK penned these words. They were shared with me by my friend Paul Patton while he served as pastor of Trinity Church in Livonia MI. I never fail to find encouragement and inspiration in these words. The community life of a church is subject to all the common failings of humanity -- but we must remember that it is also capable of manifesting the beauty and glory of God's love made real through the presence of Jesus Christ in us. Let us be going ever deeper into Christ, praying that he will root himself deeper in us. And let us pray that the fruit of our spot in His garden will look an awful lot like this.
A church with liturgies that are never mechanical, and spontaneity that is never trivial.
Where the least of its meetings are conducted like royal appointments, and its greatest days are marked with solemn hilarity.
Where organizational efficiency is always at the service of caring love.
Where even poor efforts are done with painstaking diligence, and commended with tolerant hope.
Where brilliance of mind or skill only serves to light up Jesus Christ and His Gospel; where no one can hog the limelight, no one gets too much attention, and no one gets left out.
Of a church where outsiders get as much welcome as old friends; where no one stands alone unless they need to; where the awkward ones are accepted, and the pleasant ones are disturbed by hard realities.
Where the first to hear a complaint is the offender, and the last to air it is the sufferer.
Where peoples’ interests are worldwide, without being worldly, and personal without being petty.
I have a vision of a church which shares an invincible passion for learning and giving, whose life is energized by a glad acceptance of the Cross as a way of life.
Whose self-critical humor puts people at ease, and whose self-denial disturbs and braces them.
Whose sympathies are so warm and imaginative that no one has the nerve to indulge in self-pity; and whose ideals are so high that slightly soiled notions are shamed into silence.
Whose convictions are firm without being rigid; whose tolerance extends even to the intolerant; whose life is an admonition, whose love learns even from its opponents, and whose faith is infectious.
I have a vision of a church that is like that because from time to time it hears its Redeemer’s voice speak with such authority that nothing will do but obedience, nothing matters but God’s love, and others coming in can only wonder, and wish, and ask…
-from the heart and mind of Reverend John Peck, 1978