For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. —2 Timothy 1:6, 7 NRSV
What Is a Congregational Blessing?
The congregational blessing is a time of remembrance. Followers of Christ share a common history, which gives us a strong sense of identity as a people and helps us make sense out of the present. Nothing is more powerful than a people who remember their roots and the sacred places of their beginnings. It gives today's generations a sense of connection and ownership with the past. The blessing helps in establishing identity and meaning as a valued legacy in the continuity of growth and development.
In blessing we also remember persons in our past and present. We cherish them and honor their contributions to our lives and the current experiences of our common faith journey. They are the mentors and models who have performed their part in shaping our lives. Some are no longer there for us. Their grip on us has loosened but the memory of them remains forever strong. Others walk with us today as teaching companions.
The congregational blessing is a transforming experience in which opportunity is given to explore the gifts, calling, uniqueness, strengths, and weakness of each person in the community of believers. It is seeing the body of the church in light of divine will and the part each one plays in fulfilling God's call.
The blessing calls us to live and behave imaginatively together so a community, divinely instituted, sustained, and creatively living together in joy, hope, love, and peace, can be created with God.
Imaging the blessing in metaphor would be like experiencing the encompassing embrace of loving parents taking their beloved children into their arms as a family. It is a blessing to be in a companioning relationship and fellowship with brothers and sisters.
It is a joy to hear the invitation of the Master to "Come!" and there discover with others acceptance and love; experience together respect and personal value; encounter together forgiveness and wholeness; and live together reconciled, and healed in spirit. It is a blessing to live in the community of Christ named in his honor.
The Spirit felt at Pentecost is said to have been like a rushing wind and was seen as tongues of fire. In the same way, the congregational blessing is the wind of the Spirit filling the sails of this fragile bark of our small, divinely-instituted community, pushing it out into the unknown depths of the open sea. The congregation will experience a new sense of direction and freedom as it moves forward in trust. The sails of this tiny vessel of the church will be filled with the breath of God's Spirit to give power and steerage for the high adventure of our common journey dedicated to the pursuit of peace.
Purposes of the Congregational Blessing
- The Congregational Blessing is to strengthen the faith of the congregation in its mission to be the community of Christ. It is to strengthen the bonds of love and commitment of each person to Christ and the community of the congregation.
- The blessing can move the congregation forward in providing the kind of environment where people are safe in building relationships based on love, trust, compassion, and forgiveness.
- Reconciliation can take place, and the spirit of each person will be touched with hope in bring healing and wholeness. The sacrament of blessing helps the congregation focus more clearly on the vision created by God to hear more fully the clarion call to share in the ministry and mission of God's Son in the world.
- The blessing will help identify the uniqueness of God's call and intent for the congregation in relationship to the larger community. It can help answer the question, "How can we, as a loving, Christ-centered fellowship, more fully be his compassionate body in the community in which we live?"
- The blessing will touch the special and unique culture of the congregation. It will be manifest in the acceptance, appreciation, utilization, and magnification of the gifts and talents of each one for the glory of God.
- The blessing will challenge individuals, families, and the congregation to be a living witness of Jesus Christ in word and deed. As the congregation is blessed and reaches out to others, it will become a blessing.
As you bless others, you, too, will be blessed. You will become known as the church that blesses families, the community, neighbors, and friends.
Preparation for the Congregational Blessing
As is the case with all of the sacraments of the church, there is need for preparation for the congregational blessing. Because this sacramental experience involves the whole congregation, pastors and leaders should plan for three to six months of preparation for the congregational blessing.
Contact an evangelist and begin your discussions about the blessing. You need to feel a deep desire to share as a congregation in this sacramental event. There will be a growing sense among you of God's call to the congregation to meet together in this sacramental rendezvous with God's Spirit.
This material is an open door for congregations and evangelists who are entering together into the sacramental experience of the congregational blessing. What you have read are only suggestions to help you in your preparation for the blessing. Remain open and responsive to the Spirit of God as you prayerfully enter into this sacramental event. It can be a wonderful step in nurturing the saints of the congregation in zionic living. Evangelists as spiritual companions who are involved in the blessing are there to assist you in this congregational journey. As you move in faith, anticipate God's blessing for you personally, even as you seek the blessing of God for the congregation. As a people, you will discover again the wind and fire of the Spirit of God. You will live in wonder and awe at the presence of God with you.
You will experience the joy of knowing that even as you are blessed so will you be given the opportunity to bless. As you reach out in love and compassion in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ you will be blessed as the people of the peaceable kingdom of God. May this be your blessing.
The Order of Evangelists