People trying to stay sane in a crazy world are increasingly finding that faith, Christianity and the gospel have something healthy and solid to offer them, says the minister of a local church.
The Rev. Gordon Grant, minister of the Provo Community Congregational Church, said the church is committed to providing ways for various people to develop faith and understanding of the gospel.Toward that end, the Provo Community Church is initiating two groups to provide fellowship opportunities, both spiritual and social, for members of the community. A "Mom's Night Out" program for mothers of all ages begins Feb. 21, and a program for single young adults, is scheduled to get under way later this month.
Such fellowship programs exemplify the emphasis Congregationalist churches place on having people band together for common worship and help each other lead religious lives.
"The style of the church is an emphasis on openness, freedom and personal integrity in faith," The Rev. Grant said. "It is a `Let's figure this thing out together' attitude. We include in our congregation people who experience God in many different ways."
The Rev. Grant said the 200 members of the Provo Community Church come from a wide variety of Protestant backgrounds, including Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian. While Congregationalists believe Jesus is man's savior, they do not adhere to a set creed or organized religious hierarchy. Rather, each church stands as an independent body and is responsible for the doctrine, ministry and ritual of its congregation.
The variance in individual member's beliefs requires broad knowledge of theology on the part of Congregationalist ministers, who are hired by the members of a congregation. It is the congregation, rather than the minister, who runs a church.
"As a professional paid by the church, I'm expected to have so much education," The Rev. Grant said. He holds a master's degree in divinity from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. He specialized in Bible study, pastoral counseling and community organization.
"Covenant is a key word in understanding our church," The Rev. Grant said. "We covenant to be responsible to God and to each other. That allows each member to have their own faith stance. As a minister, I can guide, direct and teach, but I cannot dictate what people believe."
The Rev. Grant said Congregationalists celebrate two sacraments: baptism and communion. There are special ceremonies for events such as marriage, confirmation and healing, and the churches hold observances such as Lent, a 40-day penance period that ends on Easter Sunday. For example, during Lent, the Provo Community Church is holding weekly prayer meetings to provide opportunities for members to develop a deeper understanding of their faith and of the meaning of Christianity.
While Congregationalist churches are independently operated, delegates from each church participate in associations to promote cooperation between the individual churches, the Rev. Grant said. In Utah there are 10 Congregationalist churches. Ministers from these churches meet on a monthly basis, and delegates from each congregation meet yearly.
Once a year, delegates from churches throughout the Rocky Mountain area meet in a general conference to discuss questions of concern to all the churches and to recommend stances on issues of importance. In the past several years, the conferences have included discussion on world hunger and health.
Locally, this focus on broader issues is demonstrated by the Community Church's involvement in the Food and Shelter Coalition in Provo. The church also allows such groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous to use its building for meetings.
"The mission is a very important part of the stewardship of giving time, money and talents to the community," said Peg Wyngarden, church member. "We feel it is important to give of ourselves to others, to reach out by helping others."
Services at the church, 175 N. University Ave., are on Sunday at 11 a.m. A Sunday School for all ages begins at 9:30 a.m. A women's fellowship group meets Tuesdays at 10 a.m. for such activities as quilting, sewing and scripture readings. During the summer months, the Provo Community Church sponsors a Bible School for children. For more information, call 375-9115.