Baptism and Serve Rome – What Do They All Have In Common?

In the Baptismal Covenant that is used for individuals who can answer for themselves, I ask the Candidates the following questions concerning their renunciation of Sin and Profession of Faith –

On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
I do.
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
I do.
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
I do.

In this present age what are we called to do to confront evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves? How will we offer hope and seek to engage in ministries of reconciliation and transformation?

Asking these and other questions was how SERVE ROME began. SERVE ROME was the outcome of the Vision/Pathway Team. Let’s take a brief retrospective look back at the work of The Rome First Vision/Pathway Team. The Rome First Vision/Pathway Team was tasked with proposing a Pathway/Vision to guide our congregation into God’s preferred future. One of the guiding questions for the team was -“How will we offer hope and seek to engage in ministries of reconciliation and transformation?”

The Vision Team was appointed by the One Board and began meeting in November 2015. The Vision /Pathway Team met and prayed, studied, conferenced, read books, article and blogs, prayed some more, met, discussed, prayed some more, looked at historical trends for Rome First, asked questions of folks inside the walls of Rome First and in the larger community, prayed some more, examined timelines, demographic data, census reports and statistical projections and prayed some more. The Vision/Pathway Team made their report and recommendations to the One Board in April of 2016. It is the consensus of the Vision/Pathway Team and the members of the One Board that Rome First is uniquely gifted and presently positioned to “Serve Rome by loving and welcoming all as partners in transformation” And SERVE ROME was “born”.

The following report was presented to the One Board in April of 2016 and unanimously adopted for implementation:

Vision/Pathway Team Report

1) Rome First UMC Visioning Team
Jason Dunn, Lisa Schlenk, Susi Edwards, Brett Horton, Tom Brown, Cindy McGehee, Renee Webb, Gaines Dempsey ,Kirsten Taylor - Staff Members -Robert Brown, Anjie Woodworth, Evan McElreath, Dawn Daniel, Jennifer Talley

2) We were charged to create/clarify the 2020 vision for Rome First UMC

3) What we did as a Vision Pathway Team

a. Prayer
b. Introspection
c. Conversation

i. With each other
ii. With members of Rome First
iii. With the Rome Community

4) What we discovered

a. The Love of God manifest in the lives of the members of Rome First is taken out of the “church” and “planted/shared” in the community to meet existing needs in the community.

b. Rome First has a rich history of identifying needs in our community and implementing programs to address the needs in the community. Examples include Community Kitchen, Free Clinic of Rome, etc ...

5) What we believe: Our Mission

a. Love God,
b. Love People,
c. Serve the World

6) Our vision, how do we accomplish our Mission, is that Rome First will:

a. “Serve Rome by loving and welcoming all as partners in transformation”

7) Our recommended priorities are:

a. Adapt current practices and structures to build a culture of welcome within the walls of Rome First UMC. Be transformed so that we intentionally build a welcoming culture within the walls of Rome First UMC that extends to building new relationships in the community.
b. Focus the gifts and resources of Rome First on transformational ministry
c. Facilitate collaboration and cooperation for transformation of our community, offering a way for organizations that have needs to publicize those needs while organizations and individuals who desire to lend support are made aware of the needs in our community. The initial focus will be on the foster care crisis in our community.

8) Next steps: Invite the members of Rome First to engage with the One Board so that the body of Christ at Rome First can intentionally act on the recommended priorities over the next four years.

In one of the articles that we had the opportunity to read during the Vision/Pathway process I read this quote from an article by John Stott entitled –“Qualities of the Faithful Christian Communities”. I share two quotes from that article that should challenge us as we seek to “live into” our Vision/Pathway in this coming ministry year.

•“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”

•“These are the marks of the ideal Church: love, suffering, holiness, sound doctrine, genuineness, evangelism and humility. This is what Christ desires to find.”

When we celebrate a baptism, and welcome new believers into the body of Christ, I ask the candidates for baptism to answer the historic questions of faith and I asked them of myself now.
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
I do.
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
I do.
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
I do.

If you “Do” reaffirm your faith and remember your baptism and are thankful, then how will you join with other members of Rome First as we continue to “Live into” our Vision/Pathway for the future? That Vision/Pathway is - the mission of SERVE ROME -“Serve Rome by loving and welcoming all as partners in transformation”

Will you join me in continuing this faith journey together in pursuing our shared Vision/Pathway and seeking to live into the mission of SERVE ROME?

I’ll see you here in worship and out in the community “being the church”!

Shalom,
Robert ><>