Someone has said that in the US, the public swimming pools integrated faster than the baptistries. Over the first one hundred years of our congregation’s history, we periodically partnered with sister churches in the African American community. One frequent partner for pulpit exchanges, choir exchanges, book groups, dinner groups and service projects was the neighboring Swope Parkway United Christian Church.
Last summer, when Swope’s church building was deemed to be structurally unsafe for worship, they began worshiping in our chapel each Sunday at 11:30am.
From the beginning, it seemed like we were sharing more than space but also a calling. A calling to build a different kind of city, a different kind of nation. Both congregations share the claim of Christ to build the beloved community that King described using images of scripture:
Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys. The aftermath of the ‘fight with fire’ method which you suggest is bitterness and chaos, the aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community. Physical force can repress, restrain, coerce, destroy, but it cannot create and organize anything permanent; only love can do that. Yes, love—which means understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill, even for one’s enemies—is the solution to the race problem.
—Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
You may have been present over the past year when we shared three joint worship services in the Sanctuary with Swope, or at the Elder Deacon retreat, or in one of the book groups we shared. Many of you have asked me, “where is this going?” What I know at this moment is that our Congregation’s Board and Swope’s Board have both voted to pursue a deeper partnership with each other. In the coming year we will share four joint worship services (one each quarter), jointly host educational events aimed at understanding and eliminating racism, and build mutual relationships through small groups and events. The goal is for the congregations to connect more honestly, and openly and to listen together for where God’s spirit may be leading us next.
I do not have a roadmap for organizational restructuring. In my mind, that subverts the deeper issue. The real issue is how do we create a world that reflects the love of Christ? I’m convinced that God calls congregations to lead the way. Shouldn’t the baptistries do a better job than the swimming pools at revealing God’s beloved community?
Grace and Peace,