A Covenant People
Starting with Abraham, covenanting and living in covenant with others has been a centerpiece of the people of God. This feature is important to our understanding of what it means to form the kind of life together where we expect to grow old with one another. Our covenant is our way of giving each other permission that we will talk about major life decisions as a group. It affirms that we believe God to be at work redeeming the world through his Church, that our true citizenship is in his kingdom, and that we at Sojourners experience that primarily in this church. Becoming a member of this church means to become a person for whom this covenant seems natural.
The Apprenticeship Posture
Annie Dillard once wrote that no one demands that people go outside at night if they want to see stars, but the truth is that if people want to see stars, they must go outside at night. Membership at Sojourners is similar. We can’t demand that anyone be a particular way, but the truth is that if someone wants to become a member here, they will need to become a learner of our way of life, and apprentice themselves here. This isn’t in any way saying that the church has all the answers or has figured everything in life out. It is true, however, that we practice a way of life here that takes some getting used to; it takes a learning posture.
So we have have an Apprenticeship Program, but the point of the apprenticeship isn’t living out a program, it’s adopting an apprentice “posture.” Having a spirit of learning. The Apprenticeship lasts for a year starting in September. Members live together in a church flat and share money, share a schedule, learn together, participate in church events, and learn the value of making decisions as a group. At the end of the year, apprentices are asked to make decisions about next steps with the church. If they feel that they want to continue being at the church we invite them to be Practicing Members.
The Practicing Posture
Practicing members want to be in the church, but aren’t yet ready to make a covenanted commitment. We ask them to adopt a Practicing Posture where they live as we live in general, but the expectations for them are less than the expectations for Covenanted Members. Again the important piece here is the posture, or spirit of commitment. Keeping the rules ins’t the point, the point is a posture to practice our life together.
The Novice Posture
Novice members want to do more than just practice our life together, they want to covenant with us. The Novice Posture is one of living with the full expectations of a covenanted member. It’s a season to try on our full life and make sure it’s what God is speaking.
The Covenant Posture
Covenanted Members are members who live their lives fully engaged in the church with our life together being the organizing principle. “We shall be together as long as God allows” is one of the final lines in our covenant, and we live with the hope of growing old together.