Presbyterians take pride in saying “we are a connectional church.” What does that mean? Does connectional mean we are uniform in theology or politics or opinion? Do we all think the same? Of course not! There are Presbyterians who support either side of ____ (you fill in the blank) and more often than we might realize they are sitting in the same worship space, sharing the same row and the same after-worship cookies.
Does connectional mean that I can walk into worship at the Wildwood Presbyterian Church in Morehead City, North Carolina and use a worship bulletin from the Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho? Most likely not, although there could be some similarity but those worship services will not be uniformly similar.
What then, does it mean to be connectional? Presbyterians consider themselves connected by our polity – that is how we govern ourselves. Lets call it “Constitutionally Connected.” Every Presbyterian congregation in our denomination has the Constitutional documents – the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order – to guide the way they function as a church. Using those guidelines the individual churches are free to “be the church of Jesus Christ” in creative and Spirit-led ways. A proposed change to our Book of Order – the New Form of Government – acknowledges the connectional nature of our church and offers a degree of creativity and Spirit-leading that is our present form of government sometimes inhibits.
Another way in which we are connectional is by our story especially as it takes root in the Gospel. We can speak of it as “Narratively Connected.” I cannot read Scripture without discovering, sometimes to my surprise, how the story of God unfolding through Old Testament characters and in the life of Jesus connects to my life story. Presbyterians find that even the most diverse of life stories are connected by the grace we have received from God and revealed in Jesus Christ.
A third way in which we find ourselves to be connectional is through relationships with one another. You may have guessed it, lets call it “Relationally Connected.” At its most basic level that connection is experienced within the local congregation; the place where we practice the command to love one another. We find ourselves connected through the local community relationship we have with those to whom we say “the peace of Christ” and with whom we share a plate of after-worship cookies.
We also find ourselves “relationally connected” through social media. I am a facebooking, tweeting, linked in, blogging member of the Presbyterian Church. Through these new connections I learn about events and stay in relationship with people from various times and places in my life’s journey. I can read and discuss sermons by colleagues using the media of the blogosphere. I can engage in theological discourse with a young person using smartphone technology. These new connections allow me to witness the power of God at work in our denomination, in our churches and in persons.
No matter how we label it – Constitutional, Narrative, Relational – our connection derives from what God has done reconciling us through Jesus Christ. We are connected in faith. We live in hope. We rejoice in grace. Our connection is dynamic, active and ever-adapting to the time in which we live.
May we rejoice in our connection to one another.