1. Becoming a Multi-cultural and Inclusive Church
It’s About God, Not Us
– Food – whole smorgasbord
Emotional understanding of everyone’s gifts
Ethnic backgrounds – embrace and bring together as one
Understanding through language
All welcome to the Table
Internationality – work towards it in steps – experience gifts and modeling
It’s Not About Us; it’s All About God!
– Ecumenical and Multi-cultural representatives
– Share waters
Use all resources: where you live,
– Where you work, where you worship,
– Where you play
Encourage multi-cultural and inclusive church at all levels:
God pulls us
– Scriptural and Prayers in Different Languages
Different countriesAuthentic sharing of our gifts
Jesus prayed, “May they all be one.” One, multi-cultural, inclusive church.
‘Father, the hour has come’
2. Developing a Deeper and More Dynamic Ecumenical Spirituality
Imagine a time and a place when and where Christians come together for the sole purpose of living out the oneness that we have in each other, with God, and with Christ.
Imagine a time and a place where people are not afraid to be who they are, where time is taken to share our own stories and to hear each other’s stories, where laughter and tears are received and given as gifts, where
conversations go way deeper than talking about the weather or the ball game, or about the latest trends, or about politics, or even about the future of the ecumenical movement.
Imagine a time and place where people feel free to be vulnerable towards each other, where they are not afraid to share the imperfections and pain in their lives, where they are quick to ask others to pray for them and where they live in the confidence and security that they are constantly being held in prayer not only by each other but by Christ who calls them into oneness with him and with God.
Imagine a time and place where God is seen and heard and celebrated in singing aloud and clapping hands, in banners and balloons and body movement, and in scripture that comes alive as it is read.
Imagine a time and place where God is seen and heard and celebrated in quiet stillness, heads bowed, where silence and simplicity lay claim to frenzy and fragmentation. Where scripture is given time to soak through the skin and into the soul.
Imagine a time and a place where neighbors are welcome, where strangers are invited in, where the door is always open, where walls are non-existent, where the table is always set.
Imagine a place where relationships are nurtured and cherished, where people take priority over processes and possessions, and where a spirit of joy runs so deep that it sustains in times of tension and disagreement and sadness and brokenness, a place where scriptures guide and sustain and give hope and challenge.
Imagine a place where people see and recognize and celebrate the Christ in each other and in themselves, where they know that they are so connected with each other and with Christ that when one of them is broken or hurt, all are broken or hurt. A place where reconciliation is a way of life, where self-survival is one and the same as serving one another, a place where we become co-creators with God.
Imagine a time and a place people are open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, where they are deeply committed to something much larger than themselves, a commitment to living out the oneness they have been given, even when they know that they will experience the pain and brokenness that comes when they fall short of living out that oneness.
If you have ever experienced or captured even a glimpse of what has just been described, you know from deep within your soul that it is real, that it is of the Holy Spirit, that it is a gift, and you yearn for more. And you wish it for everyone. If you have never experienced it but you hope for it, know that your hope is grounded in the reality of God’s promise, and keep on hoping.
This is the time and place that Christ prays for, that God promises. This is the time and the place that has been given to us and that we are called to live in. The time is now. The place is here. Let’s move it beyond our imaginations and into our lives. Amen
3. Understanding What It Means to Live in the Changing Landscape of an Interfaith Context and Interreligious World
Our world has changed. We no longer live in a time of geographic and religious isolationism. We now live in world where people in big cities and small towns increasingly find themselves surrounded by persons not like themselves.
We stand in line at the post office and push our carts at the grocery store alongside people with skin tones ranging from deep beautiful brown, though cinnamon and amber, to pinkish cream. People in denim jeans and Nike shoes brush shoulders with others garbed in Latin ponchos or Mid-eastern turbans, in Chinese silks or Mongolian wools or the colorful floral patterns of Pacific Island dress. The hills and dales of this country from the bay area to the
Berkshires and from Chicago to the South are no longer adorned only with the steeples of Christian churches, but are increasingly ornamented with the arches and domes of many temples and synagogues, ashrams and mosques.
Our religious landscape is forever changed.
Change can often be scary. As we travel in this new world we know many boundaries will be crossed—boundaries of identity and certainty and tradition. The way we understand the world or interpret the bible or articulate our faith may not remain the same. But we trust God to guide us as we travel and thus see also here in this frontier an amazing opportunity to learn and to grow, to be challenged and to be enriched. In this new world Christian ministers may travel to India and Nepal and have their spirits nurtured by more than the psalms and icons of their tradition. On an early Himalayan morning they may see the sky grow light to the chanting of Buddhist monks and the rhythmic spinning of Tibetan prayer wheels, and reflect with wonder and awe on the tremendous mystery of the divine while sitting cross-legged on the floor. In this new world we see the Christian stories of old studied and retold by Christians who were born and raised in Asian lands and who know in the core of their being that people of other religious persuasions do not have to be “strangers” and “others,” but can be parents and brothers and ancestors and friends. And Christ’s message deepens, and a fresh spirit moves, and the gospel comes alive.
Yet in this new world we also find wars and rumors of war. We know ourselves how tempting it can be to retreat into the familiar when confronted with the new. We look out into this new world and we are overwhelmed by the enormity of pain and suffering that exists. We see individuals and families and communities that are broken and bruised. We see ecosystems polluted and species destroyed. We see the fragmentation we experience in our personal lives become manifest in divisive politics and “us-verses-them” mentalities. We are astonished and scared by the many things that seem to separate us from one another, yet we understand. In the face of great violence and destruction we understand how easy it can be to turn to labels and stereotypes that, while misguided, offer the comfort of simple explanations.
In this new world we hunger to find ways to live together in peace. We believe that our best hope of resisting the person-destroying forces of power and violence is to come to know those not like us. Only when we know one another as human beings and neighbors, rather than strangers and enemies, will we be able to live and work together in peace. On the new interfaith frontier, we must make authentic relationships the waypoints and guideposts of our religious lives. May our desire for peace give us the courage to risk change and to truly and deeply know our neighbors.
So we lace up our boots and strap on our packs and head out into the unknown. We are nervous, but we are well-prepared because we have packed with us all the equipment we will need: the knowledge that God goes with us and has gone well before us, the certainty that all people are children of God, and the faith that Christ can be seen in every human face and heart. We know that there will be many rivers to cross and mountains to climb. But we look forward to the wonderful discoveries that this frontier will surely entail. We anticipate new religious vistas and deeper perspectives. Already on this new frontier our senses have encountered the sweet pungency of incense and the color and taste of saffron and curry. We have seen intricate tapestries, complex sand mandalas, and simple but beautifully woven prayer shawls. On the frontier we have been confronted and moved by the clamor of chanting and the sound of silence. And we know that this new world of ritual and rite and orientation and sense will be something strange and novel to behold. So in freedom and love, we embark on this great, new adventure with God.