Vision Statement of St. Paul UCC|
Adopted March 16, 2014
St. Paul UCC is an inclusive family of Christian faith that seeks to live out the love of God towards all peoples and creation. We will:
Mission Statement of St. Paul UCC|
Adopted March 16, 2014
We live by love, for peace, with joy to worship, care, learn and serve.
Community of Faith UCC Vision Statement
Lake Ave., Magyar, and St. Paul UCCs are very close now to giving birth to Community of Faith UCC. Later in June, it will be official. We are pregnant with hope and faith that who we will be will not simply be a different incarnation of who we were before, but rather a transformed and resurrected community of faith that still retains the best qualities of our former selves and also is willing to take a more daring leap of faith in becoming something much more. God is calling us to not only do a new thing in forming one church out of three, but of giving birth to a "child" that is far better than its "parents" in meeting the spiritual and moral needs of those who will be its members in the twenty-first century.
Society changes over the decades and what used to work in churches will not often best serve the needs of the current culture. These are radically changing times for Christianity and the church. The recent Pew Report indicates that far fewer people in our culture identify themselves as Christians, and that this trend is very likely to continue. We were recently reading an article about this circumstance, and agreed with the author who suggested this might be the best thing for the church; for many church-goers see the church as another club which they attend to make connections, and not for actually becoming disciples of Christ. Those who are falling away are often not the ones who are most committed. When asked to serve God over their other wants, they often choose those other wants.
For too long the church has accommodated this reality, and tried to cater to the less dedicated by toning down their requests for commitment to the church and discipleship. Whatever keeps people in church has often become more important than living out the mission of the church. Interestingly, the article pointed out that the church has flourished more in the past when it asked more out of people rather than less. Is it again time for a greater commitment by those who call themselves Christian? While perhaps losing some who are less committed, might it not also prove alluring to those who have given up on the church because it does not ask enough and do enough?
Many churches have chosen to intermingle with the society and have sought to perpetuate the values of the society rather than being the conscience of society—the moral inspirer of the culture. The church has been at its best throughout the ages when it has proposed an alternative way of looking at the world than the cultures in which it has been a part—a progressive, visionary, spirit-based, and more ethical way of living in the world than the secular society.
Unfortunately, the church has also been at its worst when it has been an alternative way of looking at the world, in particular when it has held on for dear life to traditions and ideas that society has moved beyond. When the church leads society to a better world, the church is fulfilling its mission. When it restrains society from moving forward spiritually and ethically, it abandons its mission and calling and tries to preserve what it has known.
The UCC has often been on the cutting edge of moving society forward with regard to race relations, equality of the sexes, the rights of the LGBT persons, social and economic justice issues, the promotion of peace rather than war and violence, and environmental issues. But the wider Christian church has a gained a very different reputation from the society in which it exists. Many identify Christianity as being close-minded, dogmatic, judgmental, and more concerned about preserving its own wealth, power, and continued existence than doing good in the world. While our denomination has provided a very different way of being church than this, we are a very small part of Christianity and our views are often not quoted in articles and editorials from various news sources.
Perhaps we need to do a better job at showing that we are a brand of Christianity that, like we believe Jesus was himself, is open-minded, non-literalistic, understanding, compassionate and forgiving, and more concerned about doing good in the world than we are in preserving the way we've always done things. It is our hope that we will do that, and become such a church as Community of Faith UCC. We have a wonderful opportunity to show what church can be in the twenty-first century—something dynamic, vibrant, inclusive, and genuinely loving of all.
As our vision statement says, we are to be a "community of faith." We are not a set of individuals who simply have decided to come together. We are intentional about being a "community" that interacts with one another for purposes greater than the needs of all of its members. We are more than the sum total of all our parts. And because we are a community of "faith," we will work toward those ideals and values that God calls us to live out together. We will not refuse to try new things because doing so may be difficult, for we trust that God will be with us if we risk acting in accordance to a higher calling. We don't worry about whether our actions will succeed, for our faith will help us to persevere through any setbacks we may have in living out our vision.
We are also "dedicated to being welcoming, loving, and accepting of all people." This is a strong statement that emanates from the fact that we are a UCC church. This is part of our DNA. We are the church of "extravagant welcome." "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." This theme from our denomination's "God Is Still Speaking" campaign has resonated well with twenty-first-century Americans. This is where they are. They want to include everyone—not just those most like themselves. Just two days ago, we read where 60% of Americans now believe in equal rights for LGBT persons to marry. Who could imagine such a number two decades ago! Yet it was over forty-five years ago that the UCC stood for these rights.
We hope that Community of Faith UCC will become the first church of any denomination in Elyria to become an open and affirming congregation—welcoming, loving, and affirming LGBT persons. But beyond this, we hope it will also become multi-cultural; an ethnically diverse congregation. Why limit the welcome, the love, and the acceptance? Why not be truly inclusive? Along with this extravagant welcome, love, and acceptance, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could become known as the church in Elyria that fosters inter-religious dialogue with those who are not Christian? Perhaps we could host symposiums, workshops, and other understanding-building events that will foster better communication with all peoples regardless of their sexual identity/orientation, ethnicity, religious/spiritual understanding, or any other factor that may differentiate us from one another.
Society has stopped looking to the church to lead in these ways. We are too often considered the ones who oppose the inclusion of everyone and the working toward greater understanding. Perhaps we could help correct this impression by becoming intentional in making our vision statement a lived reality! We pray that we will dedicate ourselves to being just what we say!
Of course, this kind of dedication will require that we educate ourselves first. We can't help the world if we are unwilling to first overcome the biases that may keep us from truly helping. The Firelands District UCC Clergy met yesterday and learned a bit about how our Association is committing itself to greater inter-racial understanding. Our Association General Minister, Rev. Dr. Rita Root, and a member of the Prophetic Witness Team, "Colour-Abundant World," spoke to us about ways we can help to contribute to anti-racism within our churches. For more information you can go to: www.eoawraucc.org/prophetic-witness-teams/colour-abundant-world-anti-racism-prophetic-witness-team. Given the lack of communication between racially diverse people in Elyria, this might be a prime opportunity for us to get involved with leading the way to a more racially inclusive and caring world rather than simply being a reflection of our wider surroundings.
We need to "learn together" and "live God's Word." God has created us in God's own image. God wants us to get along with and "serve our neighbors near and far." This is integral to our vision of who we are as Community of Faith UCC. We can't forget about our neighbors in other neighborhoods of Elyria. We can't limit our neighbors to those who look most like us, have the same sexual orientation, beliefs, skin color, or socio-economic class. This was the point of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. Of all the persons who walked by and chose to ignore the situation, the person who eventually helped out the wounded man was the one who was least like the man. Are we to be the church that cares for the outcast and oppressed?
We have a wonderful opportunity to give birth to a church that, from the onset, identifies itself as a church that will live up to and live out its vision. We must not let ourselves be a church that is inclusive, loving, and accepting in theory only, but a community that practices what it preaches.
If we will follow God's lead, God will certainly bring us into blessings—not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors near and far.
—Pastor Bret & Pastor Alana
About the Pastor|
The Rev. Bret Myers has been the pastor of St. Paul UCC since February 2014. He has served in various ministry positions since 1985, was ordained in the United Methodist Church, and later also received standing in the United Church of Christ.
As an undergraduate, he double majored in philosophy and religion with a minor in behavioral sciences at the University of Indianapolis. In seminary, he double majored in social ethics and pastoral psychology and counseling, learning under heralded figures at Boston University School of Theology and Harvard Divinity School such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Elie Wiesel, Peter Berger, Walter Muelder, Ralph Potter, Harrell Beck, and others. His doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin was through the philosophy department where he concentrated in ethics with an emphasis in bioethics. His outside minor was in South Asian Studies where he increased his interest in Mahayana Buddhism and Sufism within Islam.
Bret enjoys preaching and teaching from a progressive and pluralistic perspective, having eclectically found truth from many religious and philosophical sources. He sees an important part of his ministry as challenging people to creatively think outside their conceptual frameworks, and to help people extend their compassion to all creation. He loves facilitating spiritual growth in small groups and in counseling individuals, couples, and families. The most important aspect of what he sees he does is to nurture the character development and virtues of those who seek to join in spiritual journey together—seeking, learning, understanding, and caring in the midst of joys and sorrows, doubts and insights, and every other condition of our mutual earthly existence.
Bret has served churches of all sizes, doing so in urban, suburban, and rural environs and seeks to create churches that are: committed to peace and justice, welcoming and loving of persons, and seeking to increase their spiritual understanding of other religions and cultures.
Bret has led workshops on non-violence, environmental ethics and religious stewardship, attitudinal and spirit-based communications, envisioning and covenanting, and a variety of other programs that have sought to create healthier and more loving and peaceful relationships in the church, in work places, and in society.
Other than pastoral ministry, Bret has served as lecturer of philosophy, campus minister, hospice chaplain, TV interviewer & reporter of religious news, environmental educator, and a host of other positions that have served to inform and extend his ministry.
Bret is an avid outdoorsman and environmentalist. He loves sports and outdoor adventures of all sorts and has traveled widely. He loves to write, both poetry and prose, and also enjoys photography. He especially enjoys the performing and visual arts, and events that promote cross-cultural understanding.
Rev. Myers Office Hours|
Mon: 2—6 p.m.
These are the times Pastor Bret will try to be in the office for you to see him. However, it is always best to schedule an appointment if you want to ensure he will be available. You may reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call the church office at 440-322-3781, or call his cell phone at 262-707-6959. He will have Friday and Saturday as his scheduled off days.