Churches of Christ in the United States are “free churches.” Originally this term referred to churches in England and Scotland that objected to any connection between the State and the Church. Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander, separated themselves from the official Episcopal Church of Scotland over this very issue. They both sought freedom from governmental intrusion by joining the Presbyterian Movement. Later, once established in the USA, this father-and-son team joined with another Presbyterian, Barton W. Stone, and formed what is now called the American Restoration Movement (or the Stone-Campbell Movement).

          From the inception of the United States there has been a separation of church and state built into our system. An American church declaring itself free from governmental intrusion is an unnecessary redundancy. Therefore, here the term “free church” refers almost exclusively to a church that claims no source of authority over it other than the authority of the local congregation (Presbyterian: ruled by the local presbyters or elders, rather than by the Bishop, episkopos-Episcopal). Furthermore, free churches generally do not follow the liturgical schedule (the so-called Christian calendar) of the broader Christian world. In short, they are free from all connections that would seek to govern them, religious or secular.

          One of the many challenges in free churches is what to do when the major Christian Holidays come around. How does a church that claims to have no authority over it other than the Holy Word of God appropriately worship on a highly significant day like Easter? It seems absurd to many that precisely when the rest of the world (mostly pagan) is discussing religious issues, the church of Christ remains silent. On the other hand, it would be highly inappropriate to bind a religious obligation on our members that the Word of God does not impose. In addition, I find it particularly troublesome that many of the so-called Christian Holidays have blatant elements of paganism attached to them (a bunny rabbit laying colored chicken eggs as the symbol of the resurrection of Jesus?)

          And so my proposal is that we educate ourselves on how we got to where we are-that we study our history. I also propose that we change nothing simply for the sake of change. Rather, I pray that this Easter we do what we always do on The Lord’s Day: celebrate his death, his burial, and his resurrection.

          As we gather in His Name this Easter, may we offer worship to God through our Lord for the redemption that he secured on our behalf.

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