Communication from the Rev. Charles Smith
COMMUNICATION FROM THE REVEREND CHARLES SMITH
February 18, 2013
Dearest Paula and the Brothers and Sisters of Trinity Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church:
It is with equal amounts of sadness and understanding that I look at the decision to close Faith Church in Metairie. Obviously I am far from neutral, but I believe that there was no other decision that could be reached. The time had come, and it was wrong to expect Presbytery to do the things that the congregation and its leaders should have been doing from many years back.
If there are messages or thoughts that might be taken from what has happened, I would, in love and concern for the future for all of the churches in our presbytery and denomination express these which come from my experience and training...
1. No one can doubt that the Message of Christ has come upon more and deeper hard times in our country and society. Society, for many varied reasons, has taken a more negative attitude toward the Church and even the Christian faith in our time. Belligerent atheism and disbelief, and poor expressions of the faith, have taken their toll upon the Church at large.
2. Sad to say, many in the church itself, both lay and minister, have refused to believe or accept what has been happening in our culture. But even among those who have accepted it, there is little to no desire to change to work within the culture that exists today and the culture that is being formed in the young of tomorrow. The Church is fearful to be the church and to do the things that the church must do to live and even thrive in today's world. We so much want the past to be the present and the future, but it is not.
3. God has certainly not given up on the Church; how could God do that? It is no less than his body doing his work in the here and now. But, it will take courage and strength, and the defeat of fear on the part of the Laity and Ministry to be the Church today. I remember well the very first official meeting I had with my Session at Faith church in June of 2005, only weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. When I raised the question of what we needed to be doing to become the church that we needed to be to have a future, I was told by one of the Elders that they didn't have time for that kind of thing, that they had lives to live and were far too busy to do anything else. I knew then and there that if something didn't change, we had no future. Katrina became the beginning of the end, but it was already well under way before Katrina hit.
4. This is no time for fear or passivity. People must realize that the future is here, and we are the ones God has called to be the Church Today; not last year, or last decade or last century- today. People must step up and take their places in the ranks of the faithful. Adults need to be taught the basics again, but in a sense that has meaning for today. Sunday School is an absolute necessity for the training up of all of the ages of the people of God- from where else will education and training come?
5. We must absolutely learn new ways to speak, do and be the Word of God into the world TODAY. We do not have the options that we used to have. If music is important, why do we not sing music that has meaning today, and not only from the 1700's or 1800's or even 1900's? If our music, beloved though it be, is an obstacle to mission, then we must, for the cause of Christ, be willing to use what is available, but in our ways and words. It seems to me, especially as Cumberland Presbyterians, that our forebears knew what mission meant and went out to do it. Had they not done so, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church would never have been born. But one has to trust God for the real power, and that God will provide that real power; we do not need to come out of fear or hesitation. Will that be easy to do? No, it never has been easy. But in God, and not ourselves, lies the power to make things happen.