WHO WE ARE
The Vision of Church of the Loving Shepherd is to be a community rooted in spiritual consciousness, guided by Christ’s Spirit of compassion, called into service, and committed to encourage each member’s journey into God and community. The Mission of Church of the Loving Shepherd is to provide at Bournelyf a democratic Christian fellowship of faith and acceptance whereby through worship, education, programmed ministries and welcoming facilities, members and the larger community find nurture and growth.
Church of the Loving Shepherd, a Christian congregation, practices a democracy of belief. Our congregation gathers persons of diverse backgrounds and religious experience, and respects each person’s unique faith-perspective. While affirming and celebrating our diversity, we recognize and give assent to that greater universal essence of spiritual reality and truth that nurtures, informs and transforms us. While recognizing that the church is an organization, we even more strongly affirm that we are an organism receiving our true life from the Spirit’s creative activity among us – a life to be shared with the world.
Worship is the heart of our life together. We offer traditional but simple worship centered on silence and supplication, singing and scripture, sermon and sacraments. As we worship and gather in the Presence of the One who is pure Love, we believe that each worshipper may discover more of the meaning of his or her own purpose for being, learning ways whereby we may develop our spiritual potential in love. Through the impetus of worship, we become sensitized to need among us and in the world. God’s creative Spirit leads us led from worship into various ministries to one another and our world.
We seek to be led, by God’s spirit, to increasingly become a community where those who share in life together may find the encouragement, the spiritual support, the education in faith, the deepening fellowship, and the introduction to spiritual disciplines that will foster the exploration of the inner life. We want to provide music in various forms and modes to touch our deeper selves. We affirm the reality of God’s healing power, which brings wholeness to persons in a fragmented world, enriching their relationship to God, to themselves, and to the people in their lives. As we look inward to discover the deeper and richer life of the spirit, we expect to be focused outward on the world’s spiritual poverty and its crying needs for compassion and ministries of healing.
Church of the Loving Shepherd is a Christian congregation affiliated with the International Council of Community Churches. That affiliation also connects us to The National Council of Churches of Christ, Church World Service, the World Council of Churches, as well as to Christian Churches Together in the USA, and the participant denominations of Churches Uniting in Christ. We are, however, self-governing, incorporated non-profit welcoming members from many Christian traditions as well as other backgrounds.
As a Christian congregation, we strive for an ideal expressed by Richard Baxter centuries ago: “In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.” We affirm the central place of worship in our lives and the importance of Christian sacraments, scriptures and traditions. Like many community churches, we choose to remain independent of dogma or creed, and we respect each individual’s religious or even non-religious viewpoint. We acknowledge that each of us is in a different place on his or her spiritual journey, and that we are called together to support each other in our respective journeys.
THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF COMMUNITY CHURCHES (ICCC)
In the 1990s the membership of Church of the Loving Shepherd was already thinking about a network that could be helpful “down the road” as we sought out or grew new leaders; and we recognized that a network of congregations that shared our experience might provide a useful resource. The International Council of Community Churches had several qualities that appealed to us. One was the way in which they understood congregations like our own.
As defined by the I.C.C.C.:
“A ‘community church’ is a church that grows out of the life of the community. It is neither planted nor transplanted from the outside. It grows out of the hopes and needs and aspirations of the people of the community. It is a native product of the life of the community.
The community church serves all the community, and claims the whole of the community as its parish. It is in fellowship with all other Christian churches, and welcomes all . . . to its fellowship and membership, regardless of sect ordenomination.
The community church never seeks to live to itself. . . . it practices ecumenicity in worship, believing that Christians worship and serve the Lord together despite differences of theological opinion and Biblical interpretation. It expresses ecumenicity in mission, choosing cooperation over competition and focusing on human need over institutional gain.
What makes a true community church is the spirit which infuses its life and work, a spirit defined in I Corinthians 13.” (from the ICCC website)
Committed to that understanding of “church,” the Council views itself as representing a movement rather than existing as a denomination. Congregations affiliate with the Council, affirming a shared understanding and contributing toward support of the Council’s work. Headquartered in Frankfort, Illinois, the Council has a very small paid staff, an elected, volunteer board, and a number of committees, also composed of volunteers from various affiliated congregations.
Committed to ecumenicity, the International Council is a member organization of CUIC (Churches Uniting in Christ), Christian Churches Together in the USA, The National Council of Churches of Christ, and The World Council of Churches. Those memberships give it both a national and an international voice and a connection with over 300 church communions.
As a network of “community churches”, the ICCC provides contacts for and with church clergy, leaders and other members who understand the ways in which community churches relate to the world around them and the ways in which they function. Some years ago our board found it quite helpful to discuss church finance with a consultant the Council provided us. Counting a variety of ministry centers among its member organizations, the Council may soon become a resource as we pursue conversation about retreat at Bournelyf. The Council’s conferences offer many opportunities for grass roots exchange of ideas. And the Council will act as a certifying body for clergy coming up within a local congregation. The Council expresses another quality with appeal to CLS. Its national membership includes almost equally black and white congregations. That has been true from its beginning. It notes in its history,
“In 1950, two fellowships in the Community Church Movement joined in a historic merger. At the time, their joining represented the largest interracial merger of religious bodies in America. The new creation was the International Council of Community Churches.”
Today the ICCC membership includes congregations in Canada, Europe and Africa. At its November 1999 business meeting the CLS corporate membership voted to affiliate with the ICCC, an affiliation we maintain.
Our church, like all incorporated nonprofits, is “a public trust in private hands.” Its treasures — given to this trust by many who have gone before —are guarded, invested and developed by its present members, both for their enrichment and as a golden resource for the next generation.
There are two ways to participate as a member of Church of the Loving Shepherd:
Show up — First and foremost, you are a member of the worshipping community if you regularly* attend worship.
Sign up — Secondly, you may be a voting member of the Loving Shepherd nonprofit (501C-3) incorporation if you sign up** for a business meeting *Regularity of attendance is part of your own commitment made in your annual “Intentions,” a personal contract (see below). We wish all members could attend all services, but the constraints of job, family, and personal needs make this impossible for most of us. We ask, instead, that you make some commitment of regular attendance that works for you. Our Board has recommended that regular attendance is attendance in worship for at least two Sundays per month.
**Signing up, according to the CLS Bylaws, is something you do to register yourself before each scheduled business meeting. In other words, you are a corporate member for any given meeting for which you have registered. (Signing up once does not make you a lifetime member.) According to CLS By-laws, you may sign up and vote in a CLS corporation meeting if you are at least 16 years of age, and have worshipped in harmony with the congregation for at least three (3) months before a business meeting.
Harmony and 3 Months — The old-fashioned sounding “harmony” clause within our by-laws — along with the three-month attendance requirement — is an effort to guarantee, as much as possible on paper, that an active and harmonious membership is making the key legal decisions. We want our church guided by the people who are working shoulder-to-shoulder to meet the weekly demands of our mission. In other words, our membership count does not include folks we have not seen for months or headstones in the cemetery. As a member of CLS, you are entitled to a set of by-laws, which may be obtained by request to the church office.
BY-LAWS of CHURCH OF THE LOVING SHEPHERD at Westtown, PA
The name of this nonprofit corporation shall be Church of the Loving Shepherd
Section 1. We acknowledge the existence of one beyond ourselves who has called each of us into existence and who engages each of us in a relationship without which we cannot be whole persons. As Christians we refer to this one as God: Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit, in reference to God’s activity as creator/sustainer, as redeemer and as one who makes whole.
Section 2. As Christians we understand that we see in Jesus of Nazareth both what God is and what we as persons may become.
Section 3. We further understand that as God’s spirit empowered Jesus, God’s spirit also empowers us, and we recognize God’s ongoing work of healing in all areas of our lives, social as well as personal.
Section 4. Because of this work of healing, exhibited dramatically in the life Jesus shared with those who knew him, and exhibited today by God’s people, the Church, we understand with St. Paul that “God is for us” and that God desires each of us to be truly human.
Section 5. As persons living within the Christian community, we see in the scriptures of the Jewish and Christian people – the Old and New Testament – as well as in the historic creeds of the Church – the Apostles’, the Nicene and the Athanasian, as well as the Chalcedonian Definition – expressions of the life with God of our fathers and mothers. We recognize that those expressions both shape our thought and provide a norm against which we can measure our own experience of God.
Section 6. At the same time we are conscious that we live in relationship with God, and we recognize that God is known to us and we to God in a variety of ways. Among these we number the quiet in which we commune in Spirit, the messages of those lives which touch ours and of our lives to those we touch, and the witness of the world which we are given and our stewardship of it. We recognize especially the community that we call the Church as a place where this relationship grows.
Section 7. As a particular fellowship within the community which is the Church, we gather for worship expecting the presence of Christ in our midst. In our gathering we find God and recognize our selves. With worship at the center of our common life, we discover appropriate ways of ministry to one another and to the community that surrounds us, and we uncover those questions that stimulate us to religious learning and growth. Within our ordered worship this finding and recognition is enabled by scripture and creed; preaching, sacrament and silence; and music and prayer. Most importantly, we gather believing that we do so in response to God’s invitation. Our hearts and God’s heart meet in worship, so it is in worship that our life begins.
Section 8. The following are members’ reflections in support of the statements above:
Those who attend Church of the Loving Shepherd express appreciation for its emphasis on loving spirituality. They speak of
- its spirit of deep seeking after God and the conviction that members are joined together in this search;
- the feeling of being individually welcomed and appreciated;
- a warmth that spreads through the congregation;
- a feeling of home and family;
- an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance and active fellowship;
- the spirit of replenishment, healing and encouragement.
Members also mention their appreciation of
- the music;
- the thought-provoking sermons;
- the beauty of the grounds and buildings.
And members recognize that each person must encounter, face, and continuously realize her/his individual call and mission within lives that are unique and circumstances that are often unpredictable.