Last weekend was the celebration for the 15th anniversary of United Church of God in Cleveland, Ohio. I attended the event, and it was a pretty nice setup and celebration. The dinner was catered by the Madd Chef out of Brunswick, Ohio, and the food was excellent. The spiritual food was good as well!
The service started off in an unusual fashion. To commemorate the occasion, the first hymn was spoken instead of sung. That first year, a meeting hall had to be found rather quickly, so a certain hall owned by a certain government agency was used. When they found out that church services were to be held there, they were quite concerned (rightly or wrongly) about “separation of church and state”. However, if it were a “meeting” and not “services”, then they would more or less look the other way. So, in order to be able to meet, hymns were spoken and not sung.
One of the local elders spoke in the first split sermon on how UCG got started. One point that really hit me was how UCG started as a grass roots effort. Unlike some other organizations, it wasn’t one minister rushing off to start a following. In fact, that was part of what led to the type of governance, with its warts and its beauty spots both, that UCG has today.
Some have said that UCG has gotten away from its ideals. It is certain that over the years some things for better or worse have changed, and organizations made of men do that. UCG has become more centralized, which has had its good points as well as its bad. However, I hope that it is evident that it is not an organization which will save us. We must continue on in that spirit of a grass roots movement, whether we are in UCG or not, and we must carry on the work of Christ.
Another thing about a grass roots movement that strikes me is that it is more likely to endure the test of time. People feel they have a stake in it, and they do! UCG has not been without its share of problems, yet it has weathered them quite well, it would seem.
Getting back to the message, though, church provides a sense of family. We cannot build bonds with each other by sitting at home. We cannot learn to get along with each other if we are apart. We cannot serve one another if we are not meeting together.
The second speaker spoke on the topic of “What Identifies Us” to God and to others. Jesus gave us a command to love one another. Do we follow through on that command? Do we keep the commandments, all of them, which show us how to love? What does it mean to be “sanctified by the truth”?
One of the things that forced people to come out of WCG at the time was the “new” doctrines that God’s Law no longer applied today. Are we still zealously clinging to that truth just as hard today? Are we willing to go where God leads us, even when the immediate future seems quite uncertain?
I wish UCG well, and may the entire membership grow closer to our God and Savior during the next 15 years.