“You did not choose me,” Jesus says, “but I chose you.”
This is the central biblical message: that God is always faithful to us and renews an everlasting covenant with creation. God’s faithfulness is steadfast and sustaining. We can depend on it. It gives us hope for newness of life. We hear the graceless rhetoric of exclusion all around us. The world is full of dividing lines, us-and-them distinctions, and schemes to make our lives more private and secure. But United Church of Chapel Hill has a different message to share. We believe that God’s faithfulness leads us into the fray. We remember that God’s faithfulness revealed in the ministry of Jesus calls us to connection with our neighbors. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says, more frequently that he says almost anything else. We remember that even when we have not been faithful to the love of God, God has chosen to remain faithful to us. We have learned, too, that when we have drawn the lines of community too exclusively around nation or tribe or religion, God has burst open the boundaries that we have defined.
So our dream is that United Church of Chapel Hill will be a shining light in our community that testifies to a truth rooted deeply in the Gospel: you belong here. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. We believe our church is called to be a place of belonging for all God’s children. We think this is a message that the world needs to hear. We also think it’s a message that calls us to the ongoing work of prayer, confession, and discernment together. Throughout this book, you’ll see all the ways that United Church is reaching out to connect with the world and reaching in to connect with our own church community. We want to make sure that anyone touched by our minis- try knows that they belong here. Because we are called to be a place of belonging for all God’s children, we’re holding before us two aspirations that our congregation has adopted.
BECOMING A MORE CONNECTED COMMUNITY
We believe that God works through the power of loving relationships. We are hungry for more connection with each other. Our congregation draws people from throughout the Triangle into ministry here, so it’s especially important that we create opportunities for fellowship, conversation, and worship that help build a deeper quality of relationship. Throughout the next year, we’ll be looking to build into our life together more opportunities for small group connection, shared meals, meaningful conversations, and times for retreat.
RACIAL JUSTICE, INCLUSION, AND DIVERSITY
Our justice commitments grounded in the social ethic of Jesus have called us into advocacy for the environment, immigrants and refugees, the homeless poor, and in response to many other needs of the world. Still our dream is that United Church will represent a more complete reflection of the Realm of God. So we continue to lift up opportunities for us all to grow in awareness of the systems of racial oppression. And we’re working to grow our ministries, like La Mesa and our richly diverse youth ministries, that lead us in our social justice commitments.
We belong to one another. In the next year of our life together, let United Church be a place of belonging for all God’s children.