The New and Coming Realities of the Church

One of the parts of pastoring an innercity, mission congregation that is most astounding is the ability to work with a variety of people.  Coming into this line of work, I knew that it was often collaborative.  Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the reality and sheer size of this sort of collaboration.

For instance, in our neighborhood, there is a social service organization called The Friendly Center.  It is a social ministry of the United Methodist Church.  For many years, they have wanted to start a Children’s Gospel Choir.  At some point, and I forget exactly how it happened to be honest, I was speaking with someone from The Friendly Center and he or she revealed this dream to me.  I said that we could accomplish it together.  Suddenly, a few weeks later, we had our first series of rehearsals.  Now, over the course of a couple months, we’ve refined the project, finding a more suitable location in the church for practices and settling on what things we will ultimately need to make the project a success.

Also, the nearest text study for pastors happens to be at a local coffee shop that I love.  There were a couple Lutheran colleagues going there when I first arrived here in the city.  Then one colleague accepted a very fine call elsewhere.  That’s when I realized that, mainly, the text study is composed of United Methodist pastors.  How did I not notice that in the first couple of months?  Maybe I just didn’t care too much about who was what.

Through this text study, I’ve come to realize that, in this time and in this place, the Lutherans and the Methodists are very much in the same situation.  It is as though we exist in sometimes parallel universes.  Our situations run alongside each other, not necessarily intersecting, but they have symmetry and so are similar.  This realization has allowed us to question if we might intersect and work together in a number of ways.  We are, after all, sharing the same postmodern, post-Christendom reality.  We are in the same boat together in terms of circumstance.  We might not share forms of church governance or exact theology, but we do, in so many ways, share the same situation and many of the same passions, such as starting Children’s Gospel Choirs in impoverished neighborhoods and caring for the hungry and the hurting.

The things that bring us together could be stronger than the things that keep us apart.  This does not necessarily mean that we have to collapse into one form of everything, to literally become one in every way, but it does mean that we can be Christians together in God’s work and the praise of God.

Thus, in my experiencing these things and thinking about them, I am led to believe that sharing the boat with others like this is a mark and gift of the new and coming realities of the church.  There are always challenging things in the world, yet this time and place, with its offer of being able to move across former territorial lines, does have good things to offer to us.  Sharing the boat together might be one of the most important gifts of the time that is here and is yet to come.

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