Saturday, May 20, 2006
A Look Inside "Peace Community Church"
The so-called welcoming and affirming stance (vis-a-vis homosexuality) does not exist in a vacuum. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the old FBC Oberlin and gives us a sympathetic look inside. Frankly, there are aspects of the article that almost sound like a parody...but this is the unreal McCoy. Be sure to check the church's website and the parody-like elements multiple like rabbits. There the religious right, the PSW, and the War on Terror all get a drubbing, and the Sunday attendance of 50-60 is mentioned. Hey, a church that size doesn't need two pastors and an intern--it needs a renewal and reformation!
Peace Community Church (American Baptist)
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Plain Dealer Reporter
As a freshman at Oberlin College four years ago, David Reese had a lot to do. But one task had nothing to do with academics.
He wanted to find a church. He settled on Peace Community Church because of its commitment to peace and justice issues, its informal worship and its diversity of congregants.
"What I like most is the way PCC combines people who would not otherwise associate to do really amazing and beautiful things," says Reese, 22, a religion major from Mayville, N.Y.
"The high number of potlucks is also important," he says, half-joking.
The church was founded as the First Baptist Church of Oberlin. In 2000, it changed its name to better reflect its mission, says the Rev. Mary Hammond, co-pastor of the church. The name brought about 25 new people, most of whom would never have thought about visiting, she says.
Reese says he likes that the church makes decisions by consensus. Everyone -- not just a small group -- is involved. For example, last year, after much discussion, the church joined the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, which publicly advocates the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people within the Baptist communities of faith.
Reese, who graduates later this month, plans to attend Chicago Theological Seminary and earn a master's degree in divinity.
He's not sure whether he'll lead a congregation, but he wants to be involved in church work.
At Peace Community, Reese is the peace and justice intern, in which he acts as a liaison between the campus and town activist groups. He also has led several study groups and even preached a couple of times.
Reese says being active in the church makes him feel alive. "It's good for me, and it's good for the world," he says. "God's greatest glory is a human being fully alive."
A recent visit:
From the outside, Peace Community Church is a handsome, towering two-story brick building with a bell tower. Inside, however, it looks and feels like a quaint country church.
The mood is casual. Church-goers chat in the sanctuary before the service. As the Rev. Steve Hammond (co-pastor at the church) approaches the pulpit, their voices become hushed and they take their seats.
Announcements are made and then the Rev. Mary Hammond plays a hymn on the piano.
After a welcome from Steve Hammond and a song from the choir, Hammond hands the microphone to congregants. Some share prayer requests for the sick while one tells abut his visits to colleges with his son.
During his sermon, Hammond speaks about how the disciple Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He challenges congregants to come out of their own tombs.
"We know racism," he says. "We know nationalism. We know homophobia. We know greed, lust and betrayal. We know what it means to hate our enemies, to do bad things to those who do bad things to us.
"We want to strictly define who is the neighbor we will love, and who is the stranger we won't. We know about retaliation.
"Forgiveness is a little harder to comprehend."
The service ends with members making a circle and clasping hands for a final prayer.
Gonzalez is a Plain Dealer reporter. Send comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See also the church's website: http://www.peacecommunity.mychurch.com/