There’s a good chance that as you read this, I will be on a plane headed to Australia. If not, there’s a good chance that I am actually in Australia.
Never been, but I am really looking forward to this trip. I travel a lot, and that can get a little wearying after a while – but this is a place I have always wanted to go.
I’ll build a little play time in while I’m there – but this is a business trip. Let me tell you about what I’m doing there and with whom I’m doing it.
The United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, the Uniting Church of Australia, and the United Reform Church of Great Britain have been working hard to build good relationships with each other.
I speak every month to the heads of those communions. We share each other’s joys and frustrations. We write about what excites us, what disappoints us, what challenges us, and what delights us. We hold each other in prayer.
Every two years, we promise to actually spend some time with each other. The last time we did this, we were hosted by Canada. This time, its Australia.
Over four days, we will pray and worship together. We will update each other on what is happening in our churches and what is happening in our world. We will ask the larger question we are all wrestling with: what is the role of the Church today.
When we get to that question, we will talk about climate change, refugee and immigrant justice, racism, homophobia and other critical justice issues. We will also talk about what our churches are doing to maintain spiritual health and wholeness. We will ask each other what our churches are doing to remain relevant and vital in a rapidly changing world and culture.
We will learn from one another.
We will laugh and maybe even cry with one another.
We will pray for one another.
We will leave with the relationships we have cultivated deepened by our shared stories, trust, and love.
I have come to deeply appreciate and care for these colleagues and their churches. And that – well, that is beautiful.
Too many times we hear about deep divisions that threaten to tear us apart. We can easily opt for the comfort of surrounding ourselves with the familiar and the similar. But these encounters with these world wide partners challenge us all to find common ground.
The work of the church has always been enhanced by walking across and around and over the obstacles that threaten to separate and divide us. We are all part of a uniting movement – denominations that practice the artful work of finding common ground in the presence of apparent divisions. We have all gone through the hard work of pulling together a coalition of the willing – denominations that previously existed apart from one another and have sought new unity for the sake of our faith.
It is our hope and desire, our shared belief, that we all need more of that.
And so we travel great distances at no small cost of time and money and energy on our parts to be with each other, to hear each other, and to seek the common ground that will make us all better at what we do. And what we all do is seek the common good and the full embrace of God’s vision of Shalom.
I covet and invite your prayers. I also invite you to look across your walls of division and find a new partner, and not the obvious one. The truth is, we are all going to need each other on this, our journey Into the Mystic.