“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, The Message)
The New Testament reports, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” That happened once in first century Jerusalem, with the strange and wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those first gen disciples. But this “all together” assembly happened again in New Castle, just this last month, when six of our churches came together in one place for the third Pentecost Sunday in a row. All around the New Castle High School auditorium there were red shirts and dresses marking a red flame day. Red stoles set against black Geneva robes offered bold relief around the necks of our seven New Castle pastors. One of them, during the children’s time, turned on a fan with long, red streamers attached. As it blew and the red papers fluttered in the breeze, the children were reminded that powerful winds once blew on those ancient believers who were all together in once place … and that they can blow again still.
In these leaner days for Presbyterians, giving up a Sunday morning in a church’s own sanctuary is no small sacrifice. There’s always the temptation to hunker down, to fly solo, to collect another full offering, and to make certain no mythical random visitors find the doors to our buildings inexplicably barred from within. But for three years in a row, six of our churches have been willing to bear that risk in order to come together in once place. And not just Pentecost: Thanksgiving, Maundy Thursday, Vacation Bible School, etc. In a do-your-own-thing culture, there is a strong witness in these assemblies.
Unity is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. Just as God is one God and Jesus Christ is our one Savior, so the Church is one because it belongs to its one Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church seeks to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone. There is one Church, for there is one Spirit, one hope, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5–6).
That’s a nice nugget of instruction from our Book of Order. And it is a timely word. In many of our congregations, there is a growing sense of among elders and pastors that we can no longer afford to see our sister churches as competitors or threats. All of our churches face common challenges: decline in community demographics, shifting religious appetites, and generational decay around key commitments. The truth is, we need one another. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we are always better together. That’s the way forward.
“The Church seeks to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone.” How’s that gospel wind blowing in your #neighborhood?