One Sunday morning, eleven friends, mostly in their twenties, gathered in a living room in a little house not far from the University of Maryland. The group consisted of men and women from nearly eleven Christian backgrounds—Catholic, Protestant, non-charismatic, charismatic, denominational, nondenominational. They shared a common desire—to become an exciting, effective church that would welcome and embrace spiritual seekers of all kinds—Christians from many traditions and also those who had no-prior experience or knowledge of Christianity. It was April, 1982.
Several weeks before, Brian McLaren, a college English instructor, had called an old friend, Bill Duncan, to see if Bill had an interest in helping launch this new venture, and they, along with their spouses, Grace and Shobha, decided to call the new church “Community Church.” Soon there were twenty people, then thirty. Some families from those early days are still actively involved in the church today. Eventually Brian was asked to lead the church as its full-time pastor.
The church grew over the next 15 years, moving from place to place to accommodate its increasing size, until in 1996, after an outpouring of sacrificial giving, Cedar Ridge became owners of a beautiful 63 acre historic property in Burtonsville, Maryland.
At about the same time, Brian McLaren began writing books, and soon became an increasingly significant participant in networks of emerging leaders and churches around the world. Seeking to utilize his unique gifts as an influential thinker, writer and speaker, Brian left pastoral ministry to respond to his call to the public arena full-time. After a prayerful and extensive search for a new Senior Pastor, the Cedar Ridge community appointed Matthew Dyer as Senior Pastor, to whom Brian passed the baton of leadership in January 2006. Matthew had been a pastor in the Vineyard denomination of churches since 1995 in both the US and UK (his native country).
At the time of this transition of pastoral leadership, Cedar Ridge had grown to include several hundred people and was supporting many activities, ministries and programs that were difficult to sustain in terms of resources and staff, and there was an increasing recognition that a central, unifying focus was needed. Seeking greater clarity and purpose for the future, yet desiring at the same time to maintain its underlying values and beliefs, the people of Cedar Ridge engaged together in an intense year of “re-envisioning the church.” This time was both difficult and rewarding. It meant profound change as old systems and programs were released to make way for something new, and also provided opportunity for personal transformation as participants engaged in discernment, fasting, sacrifice and prayer.
Through this extensive process that included church-wide discussion and collaboration, a clear, comprehensive vision was formed and in September 2007 our church community embarked on its quest to serve God, one another and the world in a unique and focused way. Interestingly the vision process led us back to our roots and the earliest dreams for our community: to become a people simply devoted to following Jesus and loving people in his name.