The church and her mission: Friends Memorial

I am lucky to serve with a congregation that I would work and worship with if I lived in the area. While we can talk in abstract about what it means to be church, and what is the mission of the church, it is helpful to be part of a community that struggles to live out their understanding of Church and mission..

Friends Memorial is made up of mostly educational workers and retired educational workers, though there are also medical service providers, and a few young families. It is an aging middle class congregation which happens to be in a working class neighborhood. As the neighborhood changed, the meeting had to decide whether to remain in the declining neighborhood, or to obtain property in a place that better represented membership. They decided to stay and minister within the community.

Several of the non-profit social services around the area at one time had their office within the meetinghouse. As they expanded and grew, they found other property, but there is a long standing relationship due to shared space. Members are active in the community, and the community recognizes the work of the meeting.

Currently, the neighborhood association meets at the meetinghouse, and the meeting is represented as part of the neighborhood. Recently, this association has been recognized by the city government, and has been invited to discuss decisions that affect the neighborhood. The meeting thus provided a voice to those who could not speak for themselves.(See Proverbs 31:8-9)

As far as a concept of mission to their community carried out internally, every month there is a day when the meeting hands out groceries to roughly 250 families living in poverty. In addition, they serve a hot meal once a month to everyone who walks in the door one night a month. The meeting also brings food and supplies to a local homeless shelter, and monthly highlights a local ministry shared between multiple churches.

Some members of Muncie Memorial feel that the meeting also has a mission to a subset of the wider Friends denomination — helping support the needs of some smaller and poorer meetings. This feeling of mission is carried out by offering space and resources. The meeting has members who excel at hospitality, and making space for those who meet.

If there is an area that needs improvement it is that the meeting has become too busy. It is filled with people who work well together, but too often can’t find time to stop and pray together. Sometimes it is not clear whether the work is a response to a sense of calling, or attempting to continue a program that no longer serves the need of the community. There needs to be a period of discernment and refocus — however, I feel blessed to be part of a group that does church well.

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