Why become a member?
Becoming a “member” of our congregation is a wonderful and worthwhile step. It is a declaration that you intend to be a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ, and to share our faith community’s beliefs, mission, and fellowship. To properly make this declaration, one must ponder these aspects of our community’s common identity in Jesus Christ, and be ready to identify yourself with us in good conscience.
Our constitution has the following to say about the meaning of membership:
"The incarnation of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives to the church not only its mission but also its understanding of membership. One becomes an active member of the church through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and acceptance of his Lordship in all of life. Baptism and a public profession of faith in Jesus as Lord are the visible signs of entrance into the active membership of the church... A faithful member accepts Christ’s call to be involved responsibly in the ministry of his Church. Such involvement includes
- proclaiming the good news,
- taking part in the common life and worship of a particular church,
- praying and studying Scripture and the faith of the Christian Church,
- supporting the work of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents,
- participating in the governing responsibilities of the church,
- demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church,
- responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others,
- living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life,
- working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment."
What do I need to believe or promise to do?
In accordance with the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), each member is asked to affirm the following:
- Promise to turn from the ways of sin that separate you from the love of God, and do you renounce evil and its power in the world,
- Confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,
- Promise be Christ's faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love,
- Affirm and recite the Apostles Creed,
- Promise to devote yourself to the church's teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,
- Promise to be a faithful member of this congregation, share in its worship and ministry through your prayers and gifts, your study and service, and so fulfill your calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
If you share this common faith and wish to share in our ministry, you are welcome to do so. As our constitution states, "The congregation shall welcome all persons who respond in trust and obedience to God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the membership and ministry of his Church. No persons shall be denied membership because of race, ethnic origin, worldly condition, or any other reason not related to profession of faith. Each member must seek the grace of openness in extending the fellowship of Christ to all persons. Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the gospel.”
i'm good with that: so how do i become a member?
To become a member, Pastor Nathan has the responsibility of presenting the basic tenants of our common faith, to present the aspects of our common mission, and to ensure that you have become a part of the fellowship of our community. So the first step in becoming a member is to express to Pastor Nathan your interest in joining with the congregation. From this point, depending on your circumstances, your membership will be handled as follows:
- If you were previously a member of another congregation, and your membership is still in good standing, the Clerk of Session will need to contact the governing body of that congregation to request a letter of transfer. This will be some indication that you are a member in good standing of the previous church. Once this is sent to Bessemer, the session will accept your membership and you will be a full member of the congregation.
- If you have been baptized and have professed your faith (become a member), but are no longer a member in good standing of another congregation you will be accepted as a member based on a reaffirmation of faith. To prepare for this, Pastor Nathan will meet with you to determine what level of further training in the Christian faith may be needed. Each candidate for membership will compose a one page statement that expresses your own beliefs and how you believe you will be a part of our congregation (Pastor Nathan will provide guidelines and guidance for this). The candidate will then meet with the session (the congregation’s governing body) to present this statement of faith. The session will then approve the candidate for membership, and they will be considered a full member of the congregation.
- If you've been baptized and have never professed your faith or you have never been baptized, Pastor Nathan will schedule one-on-one (or couples) catechism classes to prepare you for membership. These sessions will cover the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s The Study Catechism (a question and answer booklet that explains what we believe), along with the history and mission of the congregation. At the end of these sessions, each candidate for membership will compose a one page statement that expresses your own beliefs and how you believe you will be a part of our congregation (Pastor Nathan will provide guidelines and guidance for this). The candidate will then meet with the session (the congregation’s governing body) to present this statement of faith. The session will then approve the candidate for membership, and they will be considered a full member of the congregation.
On a scheduled Sunday following acceptance into membership of the congregation, all candidates will be presented to the congregation to make their public declaration of faith and to be baptized (if the candidate has not been previously baptized). This service will formalize the candidate’s membership in the congregation and offer an opportunity for formal welcome into our community of faith.