Church Can Be Different

People everywhere are drifting away from each other, more divided than ever.  It’s easy to get caught up in the tide. 

While transportation and technology connect us readily to the other side of the world, commercial and political forces work relentlessly to cordon us off from a next door neighbor, luring us into silos where we can be with people who like what we like, have what we have, and think like we think.  It forms us over time: it dulls our tolerance for difference and morphs the longing for peace into a hunger for sequestration. 

Church is supposed to be different.  It not always is.   

A few years ago, my friend Jim Henderson articulated what he said were “3 practices” that can help us “cross the difference divide” and move toward others who differ in opinions, who hold opposing values and commitments, or even who may seem like enemies according to their affinities or relationships.     

Those 3 practices are: 

  • I’ll be unusually interested in others. 
  • I’ll stay in the room with different. 
  • I’ll stop comparing my best with your worst. 

By looking at these in reverse, it’s not hard to see how we might perpetuate division by seeking more to be understood than to understand, leaving or avoiding any hint of quarrel, and centering our own opinions (taking a defensive posture against anyone on the other side). 

Jim uses the word practices, because they have to be practiced in order to become good habits.  The easier thing, at least in the short-term, is usually to remain entrenched, separated, and self-righteous.  The harder thing is the thing that takes work – listening, engaging, loving. 

I’m inviting us to consider these practices in our life together as St. Michael’s.  I’m praying that we listen first, seeking to lift up each other in hard conversations; that we commit to staying in it together, even when faced with hard decisions and difficult impact; and that we seek to believe the best about one another’s motivations and values, especially when we have starkly different opinions.  It can be the easiest thing to take up a cause and allow ourselves to become intransigent.  This is where all those impulses to retreat into silos can take hold. 

Church is supposed to be different.  It not always is.  But it can be. 
I am with you in it.