Monday, November 21, 2022

You Have Your Letter?

During my quiet time yesterday, my brain turned toward church traditions. Ironically, the message at church this weekend also focused on traditions from a different perspective. This post shares a tradition that has disappeared but was helpful.

I grew up in the Brethren church. I distinctly remember as a child that when anyone visited our home church or relocated, they brought a letter of commendation with them from their old church. Depending on the visitor, this letter was usually brief, but sometimes it provided quite a bit of detail about the individual's character and Christian walk.  The last line of this letter was always, receive them as becometh saints.

When we came to the United States, my mother insisted that we have our letter of commendation from our old church.

Those letters made a world of difference, for they offered the receiving party a snapshot of one of the most important aspects of a person's life - their Christian walk, thus also providing a reflection of their character. It took the initial burden off of the newcomer and provided a degree of comfort. It allowed you to form a picture in your mind of the person, and community was established sooner rather than later.

The word "commend" or "commendation" in our English New Testament is a translation of a variety of words from the original Greek text, which include the idea of praising or speaking well of a thing or a person (1 Cor 11.2), of giving a recommendation (Acts 15.40), of committing or entrusting (Acts 14:23), or of speaking well of a person in introducing them (Rom 16.1). It is this last thought which forms the basis of letters of commendation. The word literally has the idea of introducing or "placing things or people together." In Romans 16:1-2 Phoebe was introduced with a letter to the church in Rome. 

We don't have this tradition today, but if we did, I would hope my letter of commendation would reflect my walk and endear me to other believers so we could seamlessly work together. It would surely facilitate the "fitly joining" into a new church family.

Have you ever heard of or used a letter of commendation? Are there traditions from your church that are no longer used today?


  1. Interesting, I've never heard of letters of commendation. A good idea though

  2. Yes, I remember those! A good memory, this letter of introduction an encouragement to open doors and new relationships and new opportunities for ministry. Thanks for jogging my memory this evening!

  3. Sending a letter of commendation has historically been a Missionary Baptist practice. I love hearing them read. As you said, It gives a beautiful snapshot of the person and helps with connection. Unfortunately, many churches in our denomination are no longer sending letters. Which I think is concerning. The letter served as proof that the person did actually come from that church as a professed believer with a character that aligned with the word. Now we have to take someone's word for it.

  4. Not heard of the letter of commendation in this way but seems a little unchristian to me - like you only welcome this person because I've given them a stamp of approval. Isn't the point to welcome everyone, regardless of flaws and failings, with open arms? I have heard of this for jobs tho...#ShareFourSOmethings


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