Okay, to start with, community never left the mission. It has always been a part of who we are and who we hope to be at ECC. It still is. But, to quote one of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. John Weborg, "Words matter!" (He always said it with such passion!)
When we first went through the process of developing a mission statement several years ago, with input from others, I made the decision to leave the word "community" out of our mission statement. The thinking at that time was that the briefer the mission statement, the better. So, we have our current mission statement: To know God, follow Jesus, and pursue God's purposes in the world. Originally, there was one brief phrase attached to the beginning of the statement, with a slight edit: To become a community of people who know God, follow Jesus, and pursue God's purposes in the world.
That phrase added only six words, but it communicated much more than those six words indicate.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty. This year, more than any other, I think we are aware of our need of one another and our need to be a part of a people. The division and isolation of the past ten months have demonstrated what it means not to have a people to whom we belong.
In the fall of this past year, I began adding the omitted phrase back into conversations about our mission. You will hear it more in the year ahead. Are we going to rewrite our mission statement? No, not yet. For now, I simply want to reframe the mission statement within the context of community.
Of course, even though words do indeed matter, simply adding a phrase back into our mission statement is not enough. We must live these words out. We must become a community. We must value and preserve and nourish community. We must choose to love and serve one another--to value others above ourselves, to look not to our own interests, but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). We must choose to share life with one another and lift one another up in prayer. And that's just for starters.
My prayer is that these six words will matter for each of us as individuals and for each of us in relationship with one another. For only together can we become a community of people who truly and faithfully know God, follow Jesus, and pursue God's purposes in the world.
~ Pastor Stacey Littlefield