In three days I leave for my third and final summer residency in Chicago and I am feeling bittersweet. While I celebrate beginning the final year of my Doctoral studies, this year’s summer classes will mark the end of my time with my classmates. I will miss being a part of the rich and diverse segment of the body of Christ I have enjoyed and learned much from in the last two years.
I began in my Doctoral Studies Program to learn more about preaching, and because of my sense that something was missing! I was craving an experience of greater diversity in the Church. That craving has been satisfied in the ACTS D(min) Program that brings together students and teachers of different races, theologies and geographic locations. Fed by five different faith traditions, including Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Evangelical Free, the Program also admits those outside of those traditions. Over the last two years we’ve bonded through our course work, preaching, the sharing of faith perspectives, community worship, meals, and time permitting, an occasional Cubs or White Sox game. What a blessing it has been to study, learn and make friends in this amazingly diverse group of pastors united by their common faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
God’s idea is not that we retreat to our mostly homogenous congregations, but intentionally work toward reflecting the beauty of God’s kingdom by making diversity a reality in the churches and communities we serve. Put simply, we need each other and are incomplete without one another.
A few months ago the session and I began asking God to make a way for more diversity at Kanapaha Church. Specifically, we prayed for a partnership with an African American congregation. As a result of those prayers, God led us to the Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. When a small group from the session including myself, Karen Kirkman and Kim Friend, met with Pastor Chris Worlds and his wife, Beneatha, we learned that God had gone ahead of us and paved the way. Pastor Chris had also been pray-ing for more diversity in their 100% African American church and welcomed the idea with open arms.
Sunday, June 14th over lunch, we held the first meeting between the leaders of both churches. The Holy Spirit’s presence in the room was palpable as each person introduced themselves, their ministry areas, and shared one thing they hoped would come of our partnership together. The body of Christ was more complete! Food to feed 19 was ordered, but 30 showed up. God smiled on us that day because, like the story of the loaves and fishes, there was food left over!
Where will this partnership go from here? Some ideas voiced included partnering in outreach ministry (missions), working to promote diversity in the community, occasional joint ventures with our choirs/praise band, pulpit exchange, and possible joint worship services on special occasions. Please join me in celebrating what God has done and is doing in this new partnership. Please also keep the session and the leadership team of Wesley Chapel in prayer as together we discern God’s leading.
Giving glory to our God!