Dear Church Family,

I’ve been reading and reflecting on the question “what does it mean to belong?” Over time, I’ve experienced many cultural and generational differences around this question, and now we have lived through a pandemic where belonging was difficult to experience and communicate. Why is this question important?

Belonging is important. As followers of Jesus, we live and believe we belong to God– yet it’s difficult or impossible to have a sense of belonging to God without having a sense of belonging in a community of people.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book “Atlas of the heart.” In her work with school age children, she found the kids differentiated between belonging and fitting in. When I was that age, I remember (painfully) the feeling of not being able to fit in with kids my age– and belonging was out of the question.

So how much do adults do to “fit in?”  Can we authentically be ourselves while experiencing our differences from each other? Where do we feel this way? Often, we are taught family as a place of belonging– and yet I have known many people who do not have a sense of belonging in their own families.

It’s my hope that our church family can be a place of belonging for as many of us as possible. We can be an adoptive family– and I am already discovering the ways this church has been a gracious adoptive family. This is quite often opposite of the image many people have of church. For significant periods of time in our history, churches have functioned as places of conformity where fitting in is required. This is the opposite of embracing people for who they are.

I’ve discovered places in the broader community where Peace UMC is known as a place of belonging. Yet there are so many people in our community who have not experienced belonging– some of them may already be part of our church.

So what’s your experience? Is Peace a place where you fit in, or a place where you belong? It’s my hope that together we will continue a place of belonging where God calls us to be more fully and authentically ourselves– knowing we are loved by God and each other. May this be a season of living this hope.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Rob