Hagerstown Church of the Brethren
15 S. Mulberry St., Hagerstown, MD 21740
Phone: 301-733-3565 * FAX: 301-733-3598

"Church in the Heart of the City with the City at Heart"
Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.

From Pastor Tim's Desk - March 2018

I am teaching an independent study on Brethren Theology right now for our district ministerial training program, ACTS (Academy Certified Training System). As part of the course, we have talked extensively about the Brethren Ordinances as a vehicle for teaching our theology.  
 
During the month of March, our church will bear witness to most, if not all, of the ordinances. Brethren often talk about three main ordinances: baptism, Love Feast, and anointing. These are holy practices of our faith. We do them because Jesus ordered these practices and they became a regular part of early church life. Some denominations would refer to these practices as sacraments and would create their own list of sacraments. The word sacrament refers to a sacred mystery. I understand this sense of mystery and I would point to the work of the Holy Spirit as its source. I do not claim to fully understand how the Spirit works, but I have experienced the feeling of a powerful movement of the Spirit when washing feet, anointing the sick, or witnessing a life commitment in the waters of baptism. Brethren theologian Dale Brown challenges the Brethren to reclaim this old word of sacrament, holy mystery, as a way of looking at the Spirit’s movement through all of life, not just in our few designated moments (Dale Brown, Another Way of Believing). But for the month of March, let us pay extra close attention to what the Spirit might be up to as we witness and participate in the traditional three Brethren ordinances.   

Anointing with oil is always available to anyone who asks and it is done publicly during worship a few times a year. One may be anointed for a myriad of reasons. Most often people consider anointing for healing when they are physically ill, but anointing is also available to those seeking a strengthening of faith, the forgiveness of sins, or wholeness in relationship. The act of anointing symbolizes God’s blessing in our pursuit for wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. If you are interested in anointing for one of these reasons, connect with Pastor Audrey or me. 
 
On March 25, Palm Sunday, we will be receiving some new members into the Church and I anticipate some will join by baptism. Jesus himself was baptized by John in the Jordan River. The first Brethren baptized one another, defying the state church of the time because they were adults. The Brethren practice adult believer’s baptism still to this day because we believe it must be the intentional decision of a believer to commit their life to following Jesus. Thus, when a person is baptized even here in our own baptistry, they covenant to follow Jesus and we covenant to be Brothers and Sisters of theirs, supporting the journey of discipleship. 
 
Finally, on March 29, we will gather for Love Feast, an ordinance that some would say includes other ordinances in feet washing, the agape meal, and communion. Jesus institutes these practices when he sits with his disciples for their last supper. We continue the practice today because the water, bread, and juice draw us dually closer to our spiritually kin and to our Lord.   This Lenten season, I invite you to bear witness to the Holy Spirit as we experience the ordinances.