April 17, 2013

The Basics of Church Membership at John Street Church

On any given Sunday, worship at John Street Church brings together an interesting group of people. Every week, lifelong New Yorkers, longtime residents, newcomers, and visitors from across the country and around the world hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and receive his invitation to grow in grace and love through the ministry of America’s oldest Methodist congregation. Becoming a professing member of John Street Church is one way of responding to this invitation.

Prepared with persons who are considering church membership in mind, this document reviews some of the practical questions and concerns—“The Basics” if you will—commonly raised when one comes to this important point in their faith journey.

1. Baptism and Reaffirmation of Faith

2. New Members Class

3. Finances

4. Local Church Government and Decision Making Structures

5. United Methodist Structure

6. History

The information presented here should answer many questions. Of course, you may also take questions about these or any topics to the pastor, Jason Radmacher.

1. Baptism and Reaffirmation of Faith

Baptism with water is the Christian sacrament of initiation. Baptism is a celebration of forgiven sin, new life in the Holy Spirit, and of the place reserved for all in the household of faith through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Persons joining John Street Church who have never been baptized will receive the sacrament during a worship service.

Persons becoming members of the church who have been baptized, will reaffirm the vows made at their baptism or confirmation.

Since the Christian faith is greater than any one denomination, John Street Church recognizes the validity and efficacy of baptisms held in other Christian churches and will not “rebaptize” individuals.

Persons who want to bring their children for baptism at John Street Church should speak to Jason.

2. New Members Class

The most effective “class” for persons interested in joining John Street Church is regular participation in worship and Sunday morning activities. In these activities one sees first hand the nature of our theological convictions and how we express those convictions in practical ways. In short, rather than tell you what kind of church we are, we’d rather show you.

There are important aspects of our life together, however, that we seldom discuss in depth during worship. We discuss these in classes and workshops which are open to all participants in our community.

Jason is also happy to meet with individuals to discuss their specific concerns and questions.

3. Finances

The members of John Street Church approve a budget annually. Our budgeted expenses include employees’ wages and benefits, congregation ministries, office and building supplies and upkeep, and our congregation’s share or “apportionment” of expenses related to the ministry of the United Methodist Church in our area and around the world. While John Street Church receives generous support from the John Street Church Trust Fund Society, an organization dedicated to funding our congregation’s ministry, the tithes and offerings of our friends and members is our greatest source of budgeted income.

There are no secrets in our budget and copies are available upon request.

4. Local Church Government and Decision Making Structures

Several committees made up of church members and the pastor meet throughout the year to discuss, shape, and lead various aspects of John Street Church’s ministry and life together.

a. Administrative or Church Council

The Administrative or Church Council’s chief concern is visioning, establishing, and pursuing our congregation’s goals for ministry. All members of John Street Church have voice and vote on the Council.

Once a year, our District Superintendent (see United Methodist Structure) participates in a Council meeting called the Church Conference. The Church Conference is the highest ranking decision body within our congregation.

b. Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees’ chief concern is the stewardship of our historic building.

c. Finance Committee

The Finance Committee’s chief concern is seeing that our income and expenses reflect our values and goals for ministry.

d. Staff-Parish Relations Committee

The Staff-Parish Relations Committee serves as a liaison between the congregation and our paid employees (including the pastor).

e. Lay Leadership and Nominations Committee

The Lay Leadership and Nominations Committee identifies and nominates lay members of the congregation to serve in various leadership positions.

5. United Methodist Structure

John Street Church is a member congregation of the United Methodist Church, a global Christian communion of 12.1 million individuals. The General Conference, a gathering of lay and clergy delegates which meets every four years, is the highest ranking decision body in the United Methodist Church. No single person sets policy or speaks for the denomination.

Closer to home, John Street Church is a member congregation of the New York Annual Conference, a regional unit within the UMC consisting of nearly 500 congregations and 138,000 members. The conference includes all of Long Island, New York City, Connecticut west of the Connecticut River and an area on both sides of the Hudson River as far west as Walton and as far north as Chatham and North Blenheim.

Clergy and lay delegates from the conference meet in session over four days every June to discuss temporal and spiritual matters affecting ministry in the area.

Bishop Martin McLee oversees the church’s ministry within the conference. Appointing or assigning clergy to serve as pastors of local churches, including John Street, is one of the bishop’s greatest responsibilities.

Still closer to home, John Street Church is a member church of the Metropolitan District of the New York Annual Conference. The Metropolitan District, one of six districts in the conference, includes the 74 United Methodist congregations on Staten Island and in Manhattan, the Bronx, and southern Westchester County.

Rev. Denise Smartt Sears currently serves as the District Superintendent. Leading Church Conferences is one of the District Superintendent’s greatest responsibilities.

One may learn more about the United Methodist Church and the New York Annual Conference at www.umc.org and www.nyac.com.

6. History

From weekday visitors and weekend worshippers, persons usually sense that they’ve entered a historic place as soon as they walk through John Street Church’s front door.

The members of John Street Church humbly take their place among the “great cloud of witnesses” who have borne witness to the Gospel in Lower Manhattan since 1766. The oldest Methodist congregation in America, our ancestors built the first chapel on John Street in 1768, and built our current facility, the third on the site, in 1841.

Each year, John Street Church celebrates “Heritage Sunday” on the last Sunday of October. Services and sermons throughout the year regularly contain references to events and individuals from our history, too. Wesley Chapel Museum on the church’s lower level is open year round.

John Street Church regularly presents a 60 minute program about our congregation’s history to visitors to church groups. Members and friends of the congregation are always welcome to join these groups.

An Invitation

When an individual steps forward to be baptized or to join John Street Church, the pastor asks this important question.

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in this grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
If the Spirit is leading you to answer this question by saying “Yes, I do,” then the people of John Street Church are willing to receive you as a member of America’s oldest Methodist congregation.

Contact Jason Radmacher at 212-269-0014 or jason@johnstreetchurch.org to take the final steps toward membership at John Street Church.