posted by Amy on Apr 29

Note: Two classmates and I designed this church as part of a group paper for Systematic Theology class. I ended up wishing there were such a church. I would love to be its pastor. It wouldn’t actually have to be non-denominational. It could be a “reconciling” congregation within the United Methodist Church.

“The Pilgrimage”

The Pilgrimage is a Christ-centered, holistic, Spirit-led community that seeks to learn what it means to love God and love neighbor together as members of God’s family. We welcome all saints and sinners into a dynamic, living community that practices fellowship, care for both humanity and creation, and insistence upon instituting just and life-giving social and political structures. Our formal worship services are liturgical and mystical. We promote sanctification of individuals and the church through means of grace (sacraments, study of scripture, prayer, fasting, covenant living, and works of mercy.)

The Pilgrimage is a non-denominational Protestant body in the Wesleyan tradition. At The Pilgrimage we maintain that the marks of the church are that the Word is truly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. We also affirm with John Wesley that “there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness” and that “evangelical faith should manifest itself in evangelical living.” We aspire to assemble the whole kingdom  of God in our congregation: we are multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-generational. We welcome everyone regardless of sexual orientation or marital status. We do not ask if people have “proper documentation.”

Sunday worship is liturgical, using orders of worship patterned after the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and the United Methodist Book of Worship. The senior pastor is an ordained United Methodist elder. Many lay people participate in worship according to their gifts. We have artists, professional people, singers, dancers, storytellers, and crafts people in our congregation, and we integrate visual arts, dance, and instrumental music into our worship services. In our preaching and Scripture reading we follow the Revised Common Lectionary.

Every Sunday evening we gather for a time of prayer, Bible study, sharing of joys and concerns, and a common meal. We conclude this time together by sharing Holy Communion. Once every quarter Communion is also offered in the Sunday morning worship service. All are welcome at the Lord’s table, regardless of age or church membership.

Most of our members meet mid-week in small covenant groups patterned after John Wesley’s “classes.” Many members had their first contact with The Pilgrimage through these small group meetings. The classes engage in spiritual disciplines and hold each other in prayer. When a class gets larger than twelve it is split into two smaller groups. Class leaders meet quarterly with the senior pastor, and have received special servant leadership training. Some class leaders have obtained formal theological training.

At The Pilgrimage we practice “believers’ family baptism.” Any person seeking to join the church who has not been previously baptized in a Christian church, plus all members of his or her family who have not been baptized, are baptized together, usually by total immersion. Anyone joining the church who has been previously baptized renews his or her baptismal covenant. Although we baptize infants and young children, we also stress the need for conscious acceptance of Christ by each individual when he or she is old enough. We practice the ancient tradition of the Easter Vigil, where catechumens are baptized at midnight on Easter morning, entering Christ’s tomb to be reborn as partakers of the Resurrection.

To us the essential marks of church are Word and Sacrament. We see the other “marks” (one, holy, apostolic, universal) differently than tradition sees them. There is unity in love, but that does not mean exclusivity, or insistence on only one way of doing things. Church should be holy-different from the dominant culture, set apart-but that does not require us to isolate ourselves from society. We follow the example of the apostles in their obedience to the Lord, but do not believe a monarchial episcopacy is necessary. And we think that when God sees the Church in all her forms, God perceives her inherent universality and unity. The mandates of liturgy, worship, ordinances, kerygma (proclamation), koinonia (fellowship/community), diakonia (service), and didache (teaching) are built into the design for our Sunday and mid-week gatherings. They are “means of grace,” and they promote sanctification of those who have been justified by faith.

The Pilgrimage sees evangelism and engagement with the larger World as necessary to a truly biblical, holistic ministry. Anything short of total engagement would be an inadequate response to God’s call. Rather than freeze doctrine, polity, and practice, at the Pilgrimage we think “the church is and always should be emerging.” Practical theology constantly responds to the experiences of the people, to the events of history, and to cultural context. The emerging church movement is, in a very real sense, a new Reformation, and we at The Pilgrimage believe that the Spirit has called and led us to live, love and work together in this congregation of the Christian church.

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