This week I spent some time in Atlanta GA participating in an event sponsored by Volunteers Exploring Vocation. They gathered together 60 young adults from 18 partner programs, including DOOR. This is a circle that includes Catholics and Protestants; men and women; liberals and conservatives; Anglos and people of color; straight and gay. Gatherings like this leave me feeling hopeful for the church. In years past people who held different views on faith issues rarely spoke. When they did it is was always to win the other “wrong” side over to the correct “biblical” point of view. I remember enrolling in classes on how to defend my faith; back in the day they called it “apologetics.” In my case I wanted to protect the Christian faith from the liberals, evolutionists, and any other person who did no share my narrow-minded beliefs.
There are so many reasons why a gathering of different people shouldn’t work, but it does and is a wonderful expression of what the church is. These young adults in Atlanta not only represented the future of the church but the present as well. Their ability to define themselves by what they have in common first rather than by how they are different gives me hope for Christianity and the church. Starting from a shared commonality creates space to enter into difficult discussions about race, gender, orientation, faith, and call with a sense of support and optimism that will carry them and the church forward in the coming years.
There are those who bemoan all the different denominations and faith traditions. They see it as Christians not getting along. The past actions of the church seem to support this critique, but this week I witnessed Catholic, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Quakers, Presbyterians, Independents, African Methodist Episcopals, and Mennonites worshipping together, playing together, praying together and celebrating our common humanity.
If these young adults are indicators of the future of the church then we have much to look forward to!