On Tuesday I attended Andover Newton Seminary’s Convocation at Yale Divinity School. It’s an event that happens once a year and provides an opportunity for the Andover Newton community to reunite, worship, and learn together. I try to go every year because it’s just one day away (manageable!) and provides spiritual nourishment for me and knowledge to share with you (useful!)
The afternoon session I attended was Testimony: The Gift of Witness for Community led by Professor Mark Heim. Dr. Melissa Heim (Mark’s wife and the person who helps organize many community gatherings called Emmaus Gatherings in Andover Newton’s new home at Yale) helped lead us in a ritual around testimony. We talked about the spiritual foundations of testimony. For instance, walking on the road to Emmaus after the crucifixion, two of Jesus’ disciples were grieving and then encountered the Risen Christ. The disciples returned to Jerusalem: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35) They testified.
For those of us in the Free Church Tradition (that includes both the UCC and the ABC), testimony replaced creeds, fixed liturgy, and other required Christian practices. There was a time in churches like ours when your personal conversion story was shared with the pastor and congregational leaders in order to become a church member. Testimony became the door to membership. Tell us your story.
Nowadays we don’t usually require that people testify before joining a church in the ABC or UCC. There were ways that this practice became manipulative and judgmental in some cases. Yet testimony is biblical and still part of our tradition. Testimony became a fundamental form or preaching. Testimony became a form of resistance in the public sphere. Testimony helped people understand the spiritual life. Because we know that spirituality is a process. Faith is a journey. I once was lost, but now am found. That’s testimony, my friends! By its very nature, Christianity is autobiographical and personal. Christianity can fundamentally transform our lives. Sharing how this looks for us can help others on their journeys of faith.
So, where have you experienced God in your life?
How is God working in your life now?
The answers to these questions are your testimony.
(This Week’s Thoughts 10.18.18)