At the annual gathering of Christian Churches Together, people are glad to see each other. Folks are eager to introduce themselves and hear each other’s stories. Because CCT is made up of a wide range of Christian traditions, people expect differences while also celebrating commonalities.
When CCT met several weeks ago in Wichita, we came from the Armenian Orthodox Church, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Moravian Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Vineyard, and the Bruderhof. We were Lutheran, Catholic, Mennonite, Reformed, Baptist, Methodist, Brethren, and more. We were black, white, Hispanic, Asian; we were young and old.
We knew we disagreed on certain matters—some of them deeply important to us—but our kinship in Christ brought us close together. As one speaker said, because of our experience with CCT we won’t be surprised when we get to heaven and see who else is there.
When I met a couple from the Bruderhof, Brethren saint Anna Mow was the connecting point for us. (And in a fun aside, the husband told me that their best basketball players within the Bruderhof were the Brethren.) With a representative from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I found that our common link was the Shine Sunday school curriculum. Some new acquaintances were eager to figure out who the Brethren are, thinking we were related to the Mennonite Brethren (no, but I’ve collaborated with them in years past) or the Lutheran Brethren (no, and I had to look them up online to find out who they are).
This spirit of openness and curiosity was a respite, coming during a bruising time in Washington that has left the country even more wounded than before.
Elder Cassandry Keys, from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, captured well the spirit of our intentions. Borrowing words from a preaching colleague, she said, “I cannot see my blindness, I cannot hear your criticism, I cannot know my ignorance. Will you help me?”
I am realistic enough to know that those humble words won’t get much traction on Twitter or the op-ed page of the newspaper. And I am realistic enough to know that interchurch learning and fellowship aren’t going to solve all our problems. But I steadfastly choose to live in the hope that God can give us news ways to see, to hear, to know.
I do not know what I do not know. Can you help me?
We do not know what we do not know. Can we help each other?
Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.