A Word from DS Teresa Welborn 10/10/19

Earlier this week many churches throughout the world celebrated World Communion Sunday. I recall an old Call to Worship that I often used in worship when I was in the local church: “We come to feast together. Renew us and make us one!” The spirit of World Communion Sunday promotes Christian unity. A great and diverse group of believers celebrating together the feast to which Christ invites all. People of different skin colors and different languages united in Christ. Like many others, I continue to reflect on what we mean when we say “unity.” 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays for the disciples as he prepares to ascend to the Father. “I pray that they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” It strikes me that Jesus doesn’t necessarily command unity, rather he prays for it. With General Conference 2020 ahead of us as a denomination, many United Methodists dialogue and debate about how and if there is a way forward and whether that way forward is together or separate. World Communion Sunday caused me pause as I was reminded Christ’s call to unity reaches far beyond The United Methodist Church. I am convicted by John Wesley’s words that the world – not The UMC! – is our parish. We are given the invitation to join together in the prayer of Jesus, that we may be one. And, too, we are reminded that God is with us and that ultimately our home is in God. 

A few weeks ago I finished Barbara Brown Taylor’s most recent book Holy Envy. In the book, she reflects on the experiences and learnings she gained when teaching a course on world religions. As I hold the questions and hopes I have about Christian unity, her book both complicated and deepened my questioning and hoping. At one point she writes, “I learn positive things about my tradition from people who do not belong to it.” Not only have I experienced this myself, I have also experienced my own faith deepened by persons who are not Christian. There was the Muslim classmate in college who taught me about her own daily prayer practice. At first it challenged my own prayer practice, but it eventually deepened my practice as I began learning more about the Christian practice of praying the hours. 

Many voices today remind us that these are tender, hard times for so many of us journeying in this world together. Towards the end of her book, Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of the time in her class when Christian students engaged in conversation about their various and different beliefs and practices. Moved by the students ability to share openly she writes, “Maybe you had to be there, but it seemed to me that the way we were talking and listening to each other said volumes about what it means to be authentically human. Even if we never reached agreement about the things that mattered most, we could still lean toward each other instead of away.” 

This month begins with an invitation for me to renew my commitment to prayer, to renew my trust in God, and to lean towards others instead of away. In a recent worship service we sang “God’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Yes – the WHOLE WORLD – including you and me, the churches we serve, the whole denomination, and the whole wide world. May we believe it is so!

Stay encouraged!,
teresa 

 

“We believe in the Reign of God – the day of the Great Fiesta When all the colors of creation will form a harmonious rainbow, When all peoples will join in joyful banquet,

When all tongues of the universe will sing the same song.

And because we believe, we commit ourselves: To believe for those who do not believe,

To love for those who do not love,

To dream for those who do not dream,

Until the day when hope becomes reality.

Amen.”- from Affirmation of Faith written by Justo Gonzales in Mil Voces para Celebrar