I used to lead a very large, very diverse Protestant lay ministry for women in military settings. It still exists at the local level at many installations worldwide, but at the time I had the great privilege of leading the ministry, it was configured as an international network. People enter military service from every walk of life, socio-economic background, ethnicity, geographic locale, and religious heritage you can imagine. Our ministry also served both active duty and retired personnel and/or their spouses, and officer and enlisted personnel and/or their spouses. Bottom line: it was a forum that truly represented in microcosm about every bit of generational, ethnic, and denominational diversity that could exist in the body of Christ universally… and yet we loved each other – deeply and well.
One of my most cherished memories is of a morning we concluded a women’s retreat in Alaska after a virtual revival had broken out the night before. I looked around a circle of women as racially diverse as I’ve ever experienced; additionally, some were stay at home mothers, some single active duty personnel, some retiree wives, some Presbyterian, some Pentecostal, some Baptist… it was beautiful. As we ringed that room holding hands, I encouraged them not to miss the moment: “Remember this sight, sisters, it is a foretaste of heaven.” A few minutes later a woman of gospel heritage and I met each other in the center of that circle, we all danced and clapped our hands so vigorously that it literally bruised my palms. A picture of my bruised hand still hangs in my office today. It is saved on my computer under the title “ministry without walls.”
We made a deliberate choice to major on the major issues and not major on the minors- we sought to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition not to get caught up in “disputable matters.” Our number one aim was to lead women to Christ, and we focused on Him and the study of His word. We made a deliberate choice to see our diversity as a virtue that enriched rather than divided our gatherings – a great asset the Lord could use to draw diverse people to Himself in our communities as we reached out with the Gospel. A metaphor we often used to describe the body of Christ was that of a multi-faceted diamond. We would challenge women that each facet was key and essential, that it took many facets to reflect even a glimpse of the glory He’s due.
All these musings have been much on my mind as our CHS body tries to continue to do life together in a very fractured time for our country. It has interested me that even the COVID crisis, which was a very shared and unifying experience initially as we all spent time sheltering in place, now has the potential to be divisive as re-opening has occurred and people’s choices have varied. You can almost see the enemy’s age-old strategy to divide and conquer starting to rear its head- masks or no masks? Homeschooling or back to school? Lower risk people having a different perspective than those who need to remain COVID cautious; COVID responses starting to be viewed as political stances rather than personal health approaches.
Church, we can navigate these troubled times if we keep our eyes off of one another (in judgment) and keep our eyes ON Christ. Let’s make a deliberate choice to assume the best of each other’s intentions, and be aware of a few realities as we move forward together:
- Our leadership will continue to follow the laws of our government. We understand our biblical duty to obey those set in authority above us and will follow the guidelines laid before us.
- We will continue to meet each of you wherever you are at on the spectrum of choices that lay before us. We love you and want to serve you well! Obviously we have missed you and are now making in-person worship available to you. Know that the staff is striving to make that as safe, accessible and comfortable as possible given the guidance we follow. We have also made a significant investment in new video equipment to insure that those of you who need to worship remotely continue to be served well.
- We will seek out opportunities to reach across divides and experience God’s kingdom ON EARTH as it IS in heaven, where a diverse array of people will cry out “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Unity will not mean uniformity, but it does mean that we will look different from the world as we celebrate our first allegiance to Christ, and let the law of love govern our interactions with each other and with those in our sphere of influence. May people see us and say “they don’t all look alike, they are called to varying responses and causes along the breadth of Christian values, but look at how they love each other – there must be something about their Jesus.” Yes, there is! It’s splayed above the altar in our sanctuary “WORTHY IS THE LAMB.”
Love you so, SO much, church family! If on Christ we agree, let us seek unity.