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My two-tone Jordache jeans

September 08, 2010 - For better or worse, the start of each school year reminds me of the two-tone Jordache jeans I wore on my first day of 8th grade at Parcells Middle School.

If these jeans sound horribly out of fashion by today's standards, I assure you that they were hardly the "in thing" back in the 8th grade either.

Perhaps what keeps these two-tone jeans so fresh in my memories is the fact that they did very little to help me in my "cause" on that first day of school.

Being one of the "new kids" that year (I had transferred from a neighboring middle school that summer), I was hoping to make new friends and satisfy my need to belong and be connected.

Needless to say, I made very little progress that day…being the "new kid" and all, no less being the one who wore the funky pair of two-tone Jordache jeans.

As it turns out, it all worked out for the best. The one friend I made that day is still my friend today. And my two-tone Jordache jeans never made it to my first day of high school.

Being the "new pastor" in town (I started July 1), and seeing the students at the church prepare for their annual trek back to school, has me thinking about this inherent need to belong and be connected that seems to be in all of us.

This need is so pervasive that it comes up outside of the church. Seth Godin (entrepreneur, marketing-guru, and author) states in the opening pages of his book entitled Tribes:Human beings can't help it: we need to belong.

One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people. We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can't resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new. This is the basic premise for Godin's book that looks at the state of leadership today.

I believe this "need to belong" is hard-wired in all of us by our Creator. It is a part of being "created in the image of God"…of being made in a way that mirrors the qualities and characteristics of the One who created each of us.

While there are an infinite number of ways to satisfy this need in our world today, it has been my experience that the church has a unique role in ultimately meeting this need.

And so, if are already meeting this "need to belong" by your participation in a church today, may you be encouraged to continue upon your current path.

But if the church is not yet one of the ways that you are meeting this "need to belong," I hope you would consider this as an invitation to any one of the churches in our community, including Goodrich United Methodist Church.

And if we happen to cross paths in the village or in your community, please feel free to stop me.

Being the new pastor in town, I am still working on that "cause" I started back in the 8th grade…of making new friends and feeling connected.

Just don't be looking for me in my two-tone Jordache jeans.

The Rev. Jeremy Africa is pastor of Goodrich United Methodist Church.

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