Our Mission Statement
"A traditional and nurturing church
celebrating God's grace through
reason, education, diversity,
inclusion, and social justice."
The Rationale for our Mission Statement
by Broward "Brad" Liston, Spring 2001
The proposed mission statement is deliberately brief- short enough to include in a newspaper ad or on church letterhead, and almost short enough to fit on a business card. It is not, grammarians will note, a complete sentence. It will almost always appear next to or near the church's name, so the words "First Congregational Church of Winter Park is. . ." were left off to keep it short.
Why such emphasis on brevity? The statement's drafters want people to remember it, and we feel most members eventually will. We think people will use it more if they don't have to look it up. This statement is also how we will describe ourselves to the world, and using a short string of "high definition" words seemed most effective.
There are two parts to the statement. The first part tells you how we are like other churches; the second shows how we are different.
To say that we are a traditional church is to affirm our identity as a downtown church with a long and rich history where people can expect a standard liturgy, a choir, Sunday school and a pastor preaching from a pulpit. No recorded music, no sermons in the round, no lasers. We pass the offering plate and say the Lord's Prayer.
The word nurturing reminds us of our compassionate care for fellow members and to assure potential members that we are joined to that purpose.
When we say that we celebrate God's grace, that certainly includes our Sunday morning worship, but it also includes church dinners, weekend retreats, our art and our song, and the pleasure we take in our children. It's a Walk Through Bethlehem and an Eggstravaganza. It is also our historic and strong commitment to outreach and service. God's love is a gift, after all, and we all know that the best way to receive a gift is with joy and astonishment.
Then we come to the words "reason, education, diversity, inclusion and social justice." Some of these words, frankly, are buzz words, chosen because they convey multiple meanings in shorthand. "Social justice" was chosen over "social service" in part because it is a phrase that gets in your face. It's one thing to feed the hungry, but we want to remind ourselves that hunger, like many social ills, is more than a charitable cause, it is an injustice. It is inconsistent with the Realm of God. People should not suffer at the hands of other people, nor through their neglect. It does not mean we must give equal vetting to every social cause, but it does mean that when our church takes action, it should be consistent with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who made people whole and found a place for everyone in society.
Reason is another buzz word, strangely enough. We may take it for granted, so ingrained is it in our denomination's history. But to others it says that we are not all fundamentalists, that we respect the individual's right to seek his or her own path to God. We do not insist on a five-step plan to salvation or force a narrow interpretation of God's will. We are a noncreedal church, not because we believe in nothing, but because we respect the process of arriving at belief.
Diversity and inclusion are like fraternal twins, alike but different. Diversity is the recognition and acceptance of our differences, while inclusion is our openness to difference. Inclusion is also a word currently attached to the welcome of gays and lesbians, and since our denomination is the most inclusive in mainstream Protestantism, it seems appropriate to remind the world.
And finally, education; people try to make education controversial, but for our church it never has been. We operate a Weekday Preschool ministry and celebrate our history as the founders of Rollins College. As a church, we accept the responsibility of helping parents give their children a spiritual foundation, and we provide the means for adult growth through a variety of educational opportunities.
When an idea finds its way into a mission statement, it does not mean we have always respected that idea or that we always do it justice. It means we have accepted it as our mission. In truth, this mission statement sets some very high standards. A vote to adopt it is a vote to get moving.
This Mission Statement was adopted by near unanimous vote (two votes of opposition) at a Congregational Meeting with over 250 in attendance in May of 2001.