Since beginning The Well at Springfield, we have emphasized the importance of being a collaborating community of faith. We not only wanted to be a welcoming presence, but a church that is cooperative and interactive with others in our neighborhood and city. This includes other churches. Early on, I met co-pastors of a Lutheran congregation in Springfield, and I could tell right away that we were like-minded in our understandings of what it means to be church. They immediately became friends and partners in ministry.
This is not always the case. Often times, churches treat one another like competition. We don't want to help one another out because of fear we will lose out some how...like we are somehow creating a business of religious goods and services and vying for the same consumers. That is so far from my understanding of what it means to be church that I don't even know where to begin; yet, at times, I too find myself uncomfortable in the midst of collaboration. I think it is so ingrained in me/us to be the best at what we do that we prefer to work alone, even in the church.
I guess I've chosen to go against the norm. I can't preach a gospel of inclusion and then try to set out on my own course of separation from others. This past Sunday was a great example of why.
On the ten year anniversary of 9/11, we worshiped with St. John's Lutheran Church and the service was jointly-led by our two congregations. People of differing faith traditions joined one another, sang, prayed and even broke bread together. I believe we recognized that there is something much bigger than our differences and much more important than our distinct doctrines. We sensed God bringing us together to express our common pain, to confess a belief that God is our source of hope, and to encourage one another to be good neighbors. God's love and healing transcended our human-made boundaries and together, we experienced more of God.
In a world where tragedies like 9/11 are a reality here just as they have been abroad, there is no room for competition. We must find ways to participate in what God is doing in places and people everywhere. It will make us uncomfortable at times, but it can only serve to further the peace, love and healing that make God's kingdom known here and now...and, oh how we need it to be known and experienced here and now.