Those three words greet passersby as they whiz along Scott Boulevard, and they capture the essence of North Decatur Presbyterian Church. Those three words on the sign out front reflect the ethos of a church that has been at the forefront of social action, outreach, and community service since opening its doors almost sixty years ago. Those three words echo Christ’s message that we are all God’s children, and everyone is indeed welcome here.
A Progressive Theology
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of North Decatur Presbyterian Church, long time member Martha Vardeman wrote a brief history of the church. In that account, the early days of the church were chronicled, and the founding members were described as “dreamers” and “activists,” and the church itself was shown to be ecumenical and open to joint services and fellowship within and outside the immediate community. Thus was established the foundation for a church that has always looked outward to be of service to others, all the while nurturing its members and enriching their lives through Christ.
From the outset, North Decatur Presbyterian Church has cultivated an inclusive and progressive theology, with members taking active roles in social causes such as the civil rights movement, the antiwar and anti-nuclear movements, environmental awareness, and equality for the LGBTQ community. Indeed, the willingness to go against the zeitgeist and become a bellwether for social change is emblematic of a fundamental belief that Christians are supposed to make the world a better place. A Christian life is a life of service to others, especially with and for those who are vulnerable.
A Spirit of Giving
John Bunyan, 17th century Christian writer and preacher said, “you have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you,” and this quotation reflects the spirit of concern for others that has always been a hallmark of North Decatur Presbyterian Church. From its earliest days, church members have gone into the community – on a local, national and international level – seeking to love and serve. Shared worship experiences with local African-American churches in the 60s led to an integrated Bible School program, and the start of Manna in the 70s laid the groundwork for hunger assistance services that evolved into a Meals on Wheels program. The church’s involvement with low-income families in Scottdale in the 70s led to the opening of a preschool enrichment center and a kindergarten program. Church members participated in marches and letter campaigns to Washington, lending their voices to the deafening cries for civil rights and an end to wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. Members have engaged in mission service in Asia, South America, and Africa, and the church is actively building on relationships with sisters and brothers in Guatemala, Madagascar, and Haiti.
A Community of Love
Outreach is an integral part of the essence of North Decatur Presbyterian Church, but the level of compassion and commitment in these noble pursuits is matched, if not exceeded, by the dedication and devotion to the creation of a solid foundation at home. In fact, it is through the fulfillment of the hearts and minds of those who gather here that service to the greater community is possible. There is a symbiosis between the two; the love and support that is developed within the congregation helps galvanize members seeking to do good works for others, and it is through these selfless deeds that the family at North Decatur Presbyterian Church is able to better understand Christ’s message and live as servants dedicated to the glory of God.
The communal spirit of North Decatur Presbyterian Church is exemplified by church-wide retreats, potluck dinners, book clubs, an active community of senior adults, a joyful music program, and a dynamic Christian education program that enlightens, challenges, and stimulates. Youth groups flourish, with teens involved in mission work, confirmation classes, Montreat Youth Conferences, and regular leadership of worship. NDPC members regularly engage in fellowship outside the church as well, taking in Braves’ games, going on hikes, celebrating birthdays and other milestones, attending seasonal picnics and cookouts, and participating in many other ongoing activities that help foster a sense of belonging and reaffirm the commitment of this “family-sized” church to care for one another like the family they are.
When asked to describe North Decatur Presbyterian Church, co-pastor David Lewicki speaks of a “love agenda” that is rooted in community engagement, worship, and education. It is a place where songs are sung, children play, Holy Scripture is read, laughter is contagious, theological curiosities are explored, families flourish, activism is encouraged, partisanship eschewed, and God’s love is evident.