Homecoming. It's that time of the year for churches, schools, colleges and other organizations. We are getting ready for our own church homecoming this Sunday, Sept. 9, at Christ Church (we're calling it a "Great Fall Revival"), and I know that many other congregations are doing the same thing.
It is a time of new beginnings, new offerings and new energies. Programs start up, and organizations that have taken some time off in the summer come together again for a new year of community and activity. I love it and look forward to it.
So, you are probably now expecting me to write words about returning or coming to a house of worship as we begin this fall season. Well, I will be honest -- of course I think people would do well to do that. Communities of faith are so important to our nurture and growth in the life of faith.
Those here in Greenwich work diligently to provide experiences and opportunities that can encourage us in our living and believing. They help to join us to God and to each other. Yes, by all means, come to a community of faith, participate in a house of worship this fall.
I am thankful for the many opportunities for learning, community, service and prayer that occur in communities of faith. I know that we have been working hard in the congregation I serve to have creative and new initiatives in all of these areas, and I am excited that fall homecoming marks the beginning of so many efforts and offerings. Programs are very helpful to people, and I know that.
But I also know something else. I know that what is really, really important is a growing relationship with God and with each other. Programs are useful, but what is even more important is the transformation that we experience in our relationship with our Creator and fellow human beings.
Sometimes, religious organizations miss the centrality of the relational. We work harder and harder to prepare the perfect program. We restructure and plan. We try the latest thing or advertise all the more diligently. It can happen at every level of the life of religious organizations.
I am certainly not against programs, plans and structures, but I believe they can mask the essence of it all, which is a relationship with God and transformation by God. This past summer witnessed my own denomination working to restructure, which is fine, but it will not work or even matter if we don't find a way to invite people into a close, transforming, life-giving relationship with God, with God's creation and with each other.
What I am saying is this: So much good can happen in religious organizations, in communities of faith and even in broader organizational structures if they become vehicles for a "closer walk with God" (as an old hymn puts it). Yes, I hope that people reading these words will enjoy a "homecoming" during this season of new beginnings in houses of worship and communities of faith.
I hope that what we have devised and our planned offering will meet the needs of people and nourish them in their journey of faith.
Most of all, I hope that people will come home to the God who loves them and that they will be strengthened in their relationship with a loving God and with the human beings whom God so loves.
Now that is a homecoming that will change our lives -- a homecoming we will never forget.