"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, God, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me . . . and have loved them even as you have loved me." - John 17:20-23
Some say that we live in a "post-denominational" world—that people don't care anymore about Presbyterian vs. Lutheran vs. Episcopal vs. United Church of Christ (what was that last one?).
Maybe we should sell all our property, dissolve our individual identities, and become one church, as the old UCC slogan goes and as Jesus once said, "That they may all be one."
That is unlikely to happen. What is more likely to happen: most, if not all, denominations will continue to contract, and some will disappear altogether. Some churches will leave their denomination in a huff, and go it alone, keeping everything in the offering plate for themselves.
Here's the thing about going it alone: it's lonely. It's hard. There are things you can't do when you're alone, as an isolated church community, like have a flash mob wedding or join a pool for insurance and health care coverage, or find decent Bible study resources, or a safe and loving church camp where you know your kid won't be manipulated into an altar call. And you never get to have these kids visit your church.
Having a denomination makes us vulnerable: it yokes our fortunes, and our reputation, to a wider group over which we have less control.
Having a denomination makes us strong: it pools our resources so we can do big things, and allows us to do more of God's work with less money as we benefit from the economy of scale.
And if you still doubt, remember: this devotional was brought to you by a good old-fashioned (and new-minded) denomination.
Dear God, if I have a wider church to call home: thank you for giving me a place to argue, befriend, wrestle and rest. If I don't have a wider church, direct my wandering, until I can rest in You. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister at First Church Somerville UCC, in Somerville, Massachusetts.