Today we hear from Sarah Klingler, our Director of Communications and Education.
Last summer my family had the opportunity to take a three-week road trip, from Akron to Denver, then on to Taos, Minneapolis, and Chicago, and to many points in-between, before making our way back home. I just recently looked back at a Facebook post that gave some of the stats of our journey- 21 days, 11 states, 4,589 miles, 5 hotels, 1 ski lodge, 1 Airbnb, rivers and lakes, mountains and plains, urban and rural, pueblos and skyscrapers, adventures and memories galore. It was an amazing adventure, the 5 of us in our Dodge Durango traversing to places both familiar and new. If you ever have the chance to take a similar trip with your family or friends, I’d highly recommend it.
As I was thinking about the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I was reflecting on some of my thoughts from “The Great Road Trip of 2017.” Trust me, there was a lot of time to reflect, particularly as we drove across the flat Plains states, with hardly a building or person around for miles. One of the things that struck me time and time again was how vast our country is, both in size and in the type of people that call the United States of America home. We’re different geographically, culturally, politically, and yet we have this very important tie that binds us. Whether you live on a farm in Kansas or in a small town out West or a large city somewhere on the East Coast, we have something in common. We’re all Americans. Despite our flaws and foibles, we live in a country of freedom and liberty that many around the world can only dream of having. There have been people who have tried to separate our 50 states and even fought to do so, but we remain united, one.
The collective Church, the body of believers, can be similarly described. Vast. Different. Yet, one. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) It’s good and pleasant when we can recognize the beauty of what we share- our love for Jesus and our commitment to see the world transformed by his saving grace. We also need to recognize that our differences can also be beautiful. Large and small churches; urban, suburban and rural churches; hymn-singing and praise band-playing churches; liturgical and non-liturgical churches; Pentecostal and Baptist and Methodist and non-denominational churches and… All of these make up the beautiful Body of Christ.
Granted, we will inevitably be more comfortable in the church/church style that we call “home,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t visit, fellowship with, and appreciate and value other churches. It would be silly for me to say that I love Akron and could never be friends with people who live in other cities in Ohio, let alone, states. It would be outrageous for me to think that my area of the country alone holds beauty and charm and value and worth and so never travel anywhere outside of my community. Yet that’s how I think we sometimes view our individual congregations versus the larger Church. We’re so concerned with what separates us we can’t see the beauty in the other. Perhaps we’re not really even aware of the other because we’ve forgotten that the collective Church is about more than our own church building.
There’s certainly something to be said for state or city pride. Have you heard of Texas pride or people being Texas proud? Supposedly people in Texas have the most pride of anyone in the country. (Was that someone from Texas who wrote that?) I beg to differ. “330/Akron Pride” would give them competition any day of the week. It’s great to love where you live. It’s also great to love the local community of believers where you worship and fellowship and serve. However, we also need to see our place in the larger body and get outside our building to meet, fellowship, worship, and serve with other believers.
One of the things that drew me to want to work for The Love Akron Network almost 8 years ago was our mission and vision for a united Church in the Greater Akron Area. That mission remains the same. Some of our programming has changed. Our office location has changed. Even some of our staff has changed. Nevertheless, we are committed to bringing together the “colors, cultures, classes, and congregations.” Why? To bring social and spiritual transformation to our community. It takes us all. We can edify one another. Build up and encourage one another. Work together in ways that we can’t separately. Our Network is growing, but we’d love to see more churches and individuals catch on to this vision for a united Church. Will you join us?
May we “major on the majors” and let the differences that we have fall away. May we “…have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8) May we “…Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace…” (2 Corinthians 13:11b) Finally, may we “…put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14)
Happy Birthday, America, beautiful land of diversity and unity! Jesus, thank you, also for the beautiful diversity and unity we can have as believers through our collective love of you. Help the community at large to see a truly United Church and be drawn to the Savior who makes this unity possible.