Over the centuries many Cathedrals have been built in the shape of a cross. With the nave (the area where the congregations sits) forming the vertical beam of the cross, and the transept forming the horizontal beam of the cross. The Hartford Street Presbyterian Church (HSPC) is not built in this manner. As a matter of fact the space in which we worship was originally meant to be the fellowship hall and the original sanctuary was to be built off the side of the hall toward Hartford Street. The remarkable part of HSPC though the building has never been finished, and we are not built in the shape of the old cathedrals, the church has lasted for many years and is still thriving while many of the massive and beautiful cathedrals around the world have become hardly more than tourist attractions with no active congregations.
It is not the shape of the building or even its grandeur that creates a living and vibrant church. It is truly the people and the congregation making a conscious effort to live as the Body of Christ on earth. When Jesus prepared to leave the disciples he said to them:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
A church needs to strive to be the “Body of Christ on Earth” and that starts with us learning to love each other as Jesus first loved us. Part of that means getting to know each other. The deacons are working to help us get to know each other better with potluck lunches and they are helping us to learn new ways to listen for God’s Word for our lives. To live as Christ’s Body it also means to work to heal the world around us as Jesus healed those he found who were sick and in need. It means to lift up the poor, to visit those in prison, to clothe the naked and to feed the hungry. Finally, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave the great commission to all his disciples across all nations and time:
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
It is not the shape of the building, or the name of the church, or its location, or even its grandeur — it is simply the people and their ability to love each other, care for the world around them, and live out Christ’s words to us. Let us live as the Body of Christ on Earth and let us tell all persons about his great love for every single human being.