These three values get at what we hope to be about at Hilltop Covenant Church. We work to practice these by investing in the people of the greater Cromwell community, serving the disadvantaged and vulnerable, and cultivating the kind of faith that grows in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3). But the best way to get to know Hilltop is to see for yourself! Consider yourself invited to join us for worship on a Sunday morning at 9:30am, and please reach out to our pastor if you have any questions.
We focus on cultivating a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We do this by seeking to know and live in the pattern of Christ as revealed in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the Bible. We see the Bible as the "word of God," meaning that within these texts we find wisdom, guidance, inspiration and hope for living the life of faith, as individuals and as a community. We also believe that Jesus was the "word made flesh" (John 1), meaning that he was the fullest expression of who God is. This means that we always read the Bible through the lens of Jesus' life. To be Christ-centered also means that we identify as those moving toward Christ, the center, rather than those who fit within a firm boundary of traditions and doctrines. We hope to be faithful and loving more than being right! For Christ is not an idea or dogma but the life of God for the world.
Centering our lives on Christ demands that we put some skin in the game and serve others as Christ did. Because we have limited resources, we focus our hands-on mission on the greater Cromwell area in a few key ways: supporting the Cromwell Food Pantry, keeping Pierson Park clean with our "Pick of the Litter" crew, and by offering affordable, quality Christian preschool and daycare programs through Hilltop Preschool & Daycare. We also partner with a number of local, regional and global organizations to expand our reach, including the New England Seafarers Mission, KICY radio station in Alaska, and missionaries who run the Rain Forest International School in Cameroon.
The good news that we celebrate is that, in Jesus Christ, God took down every barrier that could keep us from accessing the love and life of God. We seek to do the same at Hilltop. You are invited to come and participate in our life together, wherever you are on your spiritual journey. All people--of every ethnicity, race, class, ability, status, sexual orientation, and gender identity--are children of God, created in the image of God. You are welcome at Hilltop just as you are!
The three values named above capture the essence of what we hope to be about at Hilltop. But what about the specific doctrines of the church? Hilltop grows out of a tradition that views a core of centering affirmations toward which we are drawn, rather than a hard boundary of doctrines that tell us whether a person is "in" or "out." The following is an overview of those centering affirmations.
- the centrality of the word of God. The Bible is our central source of wisdom and understanding for living our faith, together and individually, in this time and place. It is neither a historical account of the universe nor a grab bag of certainties. As one Bible scholar puts it, "The Bible is a script waiting to be performed. Just as there are different performances of a Beethoven symphony, so also there are different ways of performing the Scriptures in our different communities." We gather together as a community around the sacred Scriptures, to learn from them and to discern how to faithfully perform the script, so to speak.
- the necessity of new birth. The apostle Paul wrote to the first Christians in the city of Corinth, saying, "If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The hope that we gather around is that God transforms everything through the resurrection of Jesus. What's more is that all have been invited into the life of God in Christ. For this reason we celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion as means of God's grace flowing in and through our lives, and we seek to grow and mature in the new life God has given us.
- the whole mission of the church. God's mission to bring hope, healing and renewal to all creation (Revelation 21:1-5) is not simply a human or spiritual hope. It is a hope that encompasses the whole of creation in all its physical beauty and wonder. For this reason, the church's mission is not simply to tell people of the good news of Jesus, but to show them through tangible acts of compassion, mercy and justice that serve the whole person (physical, emotional, spiritual) without exclusion. This also means that we are called to live for the well-being of all creation, caring for our world and developing more ecologically responsible practices as a community.
- the church as a fellowship of believers. Membership at Hilltop is open to all who confess faith in Jesus Christ and have been baptized (or seek the Sacrament of Baptism). Being baptized into Christ means that the playing field is leveled and any hierarchies or walls of division we may create come crashing down (Galatians 3:25-29)! People play different roles in the church, based on their skills and talents, but we are a family of equals, all sharing in the mission of the church. For this reason, we govern our church "congregationally," meaning that the members weigh in on all major matters and appoint leaders and staff to carry out the day-to-day operations.
- a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit. We believe that God is inherently relational, which is traditionally described in terms of the Trinity (that God is three persons in one essence). The Holy Spirit is that member of the "triune community" that accompanies and empowers the church and its members for living the life of faith (Galatians 5:16-26). In the second chapter of the book of Acts, it was the Spirit who spoke through the apostle Peter, who "cut people to the heart," who empowered them to believe, and who commissioned them to go forth as the church to live and share its message. The Spirit does the same thing today: speaks through everyday people like you, impresses upon us the desire of God for our lives, empowers us to believe in God's love and presence when we cannot always see or feel them, and sends us out to live and share the message of God's love for all creation.
- the reality of freedom in Christ. "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). From beginning to end, the Bible provides a wide variety of images to help us understand God's salvation, one of the central images being freedom from slavery. This image guides our faith practice in two important ways. First, it teaches us to practice our faith as a response to God's liberating grace rather than as a means of earning God's love and approval. In Christ, God has set us free from our own brokenness and destructive behaviors. Our response, then, is to live freely in the love and favor of God, modeling our lives after none other than Christ. Secondly, freedom in Christ informs how we relate to one another. There is no one definitive way to understand the Bible and the Christian faith. To the contrary, we believe that a diversity of perspectives and experiences can sharpen our own understanding. Therefore, we seek to be a people who major in the majors and minor in the minors. That is, we focus on these centering affirmations--Christ is ultimately the center!--and give each other freedom to hold a variety of views on the more peripheral matters. The great saying attributed to St. Augustine captures this: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love!