On Sunday I'll be attending a worship service commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Germonds Presbyterian Church, in New City, N.Y.
It will be the first of several upcoming anniversaries -- the 50th anniversary of Faith Presbyterian in Indianapolis, the 300th anniversary of Pencader Presbyterian in Wilmington, Del., the 200th anniversary of United Presbyterian in Princeton, Ind., just to name a few.
These occasions certainly are a time for celebrating God's providence, and giving thanks for the faithful men and women who labored in that particular corner of Christ's kingdom, in good times and in bad times, to proclaim God's Word.
But we have to be careful that in celebrating these anniversaries we don't end up worshipping the church rather than worshipping God. A congregation that doesn't make it to a 50th, or 150th, anniversary hasn't necessarily failed, or somehow been less effective than one that does reach such a milestone. What matters more than longevity is effective mission and ministry in a particular place and in a particular time.
One of the great benefits of our connectional system is that congregations aren't on their own in figuring out if they are still effectively doing mission and ministry -- they can turn to the presbytery for help and resources in evaluating their effectiveness and in making hard decisions. Nothing is more valuable or necessary to our ongoing denomination than competent, effective presbytery staff who work prayerfully with congregations as they assess their current life and their future.
So we justifiably celebrate, and give thanks, for church anniversaries -- but we also celebrate, and give thanks, for those congregations whose season for ministry has ended. They too served the Lord.