Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple,
and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people
and proclaiming that in Jesus there is resurrection of the dead.
In Acts 4:1-31, Peter and John are arrested in the temple in Jerusalem by the leaders of the temple. The apostles are told not to preach about Jesus but they say they cannot keep from speaking about what they had seen and heard.
Yesterday, I wrote about how the context of a place affects a congregation in which it serves. In Acts, the context of the temple in Jerusalem allowed Peter and John maximum exposure both to people open to their word, and temple authorities opposed to them. But, by the time that Acts was likely written, after 70 CE, the temple had been destroyed and Jerusalem was no longer. The Romans had taken it over and renamed it Aelia Capitolina.
The destruction of the temple called for adaptive change for the Jewish community. Rabbinic Judaism emerged as the response; no longer centered on the temple but on the Torah, the synagogue and the home. Christianity adapted as well, becoming an increasingly Gentile faith as it spread around the Mediterranean.
What a difference 40 or 50 years can make! Think about all the changes that have happened in our country, communities, and churches in the past 50 years. Our church buildings may still be the same, but many of the changes around us affect the way we minister. There are a number of examples of adapting to our context and trying new things in our churches.
One example is Peacemeal, a ministry of St. James–St. George, Jermyn. This church, northeast of Scranton, had already adapted to changes, in 1990, by merging two churches, begun in the late 1800’s, into one congregation. Peacemeal “is an alternative community in the Scranton area that brings together people from all sorts of backgrounds, economic situations, personal circumstances, and life-styles. We sit down to share a meal once a month so that these folks might become our friends and so that Jesus might touch our hearts in new ways. We do this to make the circle bigger until it includes all God’s children” (The Inchoirer, fall 2014).
Another example is two new worship experiences at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. 3-2-1 Contact started as a monthly service for young families, in Sayre Hall, between the Sunday services. It is a short, informal Eucharist, with music (including songs from their summer camp) provided by various instrumentalists from their congregation. It now is weekly and includes people of all ages. Bethlehem is an area where Celtic things are popular, and the Celtic Spirituality Night (on the last Saturday of the month) draws people from the wider community for candle-lit meditation and reflection, with live Celtic music.
What adaptive changes might your changing context be inviting you to try?