Last Tuesday night, nearly a thousand 20 and 30-somethings from many church traditions and denominations packed in Historic First Pres Church in downtown Phoenix for a night of worship. And the God is Love liturgy came alive in a way I’ve never seen. (Check out the deeply compelling vision of Jeff Gokee for PhoenixONE here.)
I’m not exactly sure all the reasons why it was such a holy gathering, but here is one thing I can’t stop thinking about:
Ecumenicalism is the future.
Christianity has divided and specialized ourselves into a thousand small corners, and we’re all missing out on what the other has to bring. (It’s like every kid in a family deciding to only eat their favorite food…nothing else. They are happy for a while, but end up malnourished and sick.)
Tuesday night was a beautiful mingling of traditions. You could see the mainline folks digging deeply into the more liturgical elements. The evangelical folks lead the charge as we sang “One Thing Remains”. And thank God for our charismatic brothers and sisters – raising hands and dancing in the isles. We were all enriched by what the other had to bring.
And I guess this is the heart of what we’re trying to do with A New Liturgy.
Singing four worship songs and a hymn is a great way to worship God, but a little one-dimensional. A steady diet of only this could create malnourished worshipers. But as much as I idealize The Liturgy, many of my mainline friends are longing for more heart, life, and passion than the conventional liturgy. It seems that every tradition understands something profound about worshiping God, but we lack (1) A way to share this wisdom with other traditions who would benefit, and (2) A way to learn from other traditions who are strong in other areas. And so most of us end up spiritually isolated, one-dimentional, and malnourished.
Wow, I’m discovering (as I write this post!) how much this matters to me.
We Christians have become experts at defending our faith and sharing the truth. This is good in many ways. But I think we need to also recapture our ability to learn from those outside of our circle. Courage is a beautiful thing, but so is humility.
I suspect that the church of the future will be lead by people who know and admit what they don’t know…and then humbly partner with those who can teach them.
Can you imagine a church that said “Jesus is the center and focus of everything we do, but we acknowledge our limited vantage point. And so we will embrace and learn from any tradition or practice that elevates Christ and forms us into His likeness.” Reading ancient prayers? Yes. Singing pop songs with our hands in the air? Yes. Praying Jewish blessings from the Torah? Yes. Singing old spiritual laments? Yes.
As each member of a church is just one part of the body, I wonder if each church tradition needs to be understood as one part of the Bigger Body. Each is absolutely critical…but only one part of the Story.
Thank God for our fundamentalist brothers and sisters who remind us that God’s truth is profoundly important. Thank God for our Catholic brothers and sisters’ commitment to working for good in the world. Thank God for Evangelicals who remind us that we need to be saved. Thank God for the open hearts of our Episcopalian brothers and sisters.
Each one is a glorious part of the tangible Kingdom of God among us! And how can the foot say to the eye “I don’t need you!”… (1 Cor 12)
The big question is: How can we come together? Where are the safe places to lay down our tribal flags and learn from our “other” brothers and sisters? Who will create and protect more of these safe places?
We really need each other.