Let Your Light So Shine
Move Made To Accommodate Congregation Growth
Posted: February 23, 2013
Aubrey Spears, pastor of the Church of the Incarnation in Harrisonburg, speaks at the panel discussion hosted Tuesday night at the church’s new 292 N. Liberty St. location. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Professor Craig Bartholomew addresses the group gathered at the panel discussion on how Christian traditions contribute to the good of society hosted Tuesday at the Church of the Incarnation in Harrisonburg. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
After all, the church, now housed in the former Parts Inc. building at 292 N. Liberty St., is so dedicated the contributing to the common good of the city it took on the task as part of its mission.
“We intend to be deeply rooted in these few square miles,” its website reads. “Our hope is to see the joy and peace of [God’s kingdom] come to our city and Valley.”
The mission must be working to at least one end: attracting new members.
Although the group has never hoped for mega-church status, it grew from 14 members in October of 2010 to a 120-person congregation packed into the 265 E. Market St. location before the body of believers migrated a few streets over in January.
As one of the first events at the new Church of the Incarnation location, the title “For the Good of the City: How to be a Christian in Harrisonburg,” couldn’t be more fitting.
The new building, a sleek, modern space that comfortably fits the growing congregation — for now at least — hosted a panel of experts with various religious backgrounds Tuesday to debate how Christians should delve into their communities with purpose.
More than 50 people took up the chairs in the main room, leaving some to stand along the walls. But this congregation is used to that kind of a response.
Although the three panelists disagreed on certain details, such as the relative importance of the Sermon on the Mount to how one should read the rest of the Bible, their overall messages were nearly identical: Christians should still operate as such outside of church walls.
“Most of our lives are not spent in the church,” said Craig Bartholomew, a South African native, philosophy professor and writer-in-residence at the Church of the Incarnation.
“Every one of us is called to be a sign of the kingdom in every aspect of our lives. … In the kingdom of God, there are only fulltime servants.”
He referred to Christians as “the people of God gathered and scattered,” to emphasize that their Christian roles don’t end with church walls.
“The Christian community, as a community, is to be a witness … always knowing that our primary vocation is to be a Christian,” said Mark Thiessen-Nation, professor of theology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
Another panelist, Gerald McDermott, a religion professor at Roanoke College, said American Christianity is moving more toward the idea that, “I can live like the devil because, after all, it’s Jesus’ job to forgive me.”
He noted that if Christians aren’t experiencing enough conflict in their everyday lives, “then maybe that’s a sign that we aren’t doing the kind of witnessing that we need to be doing.”
“We must do this witness-bearing that will bring conflict — and it will get us into trouble — with joy,” he said.
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or email@example.com