I was just thinking…..
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4 (NRSV)
Every October, when the first Sunday marks World Communion Day, I am tremendously moved. I think about the swath of churches that go around the whole world—north, south, east, west—and each one of them are celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the supreme giving of Jesus Christ. In a vision, Julian of Norwich sees Jesus on the cross, and as she talks with him, his haggard, drawn face changes to a face of fullness and joy and grace. He says, in essence, “I would do this again and again for the love of my people.” And as dawn and dusk come and go around this whole planet, there is never a moment in which the feast of Jesus’ love and the work of Christ’s love are not being remembered and honored with renewed commitment. I get shivers and tears just thinking about it!
I was recently asked to reflect on what the importance is of saying “the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains” instead of just “the District,” and this image of worldwide communion came to me. Even as our faith calls us to recognize each person’s individual needs, strengths, joys, and sorrows and react accordingly, our faith says that we are members of one body, one Spirit. And I believe that, in our most deep souls, we do want to be in a community of faith, one body. We want to know that we are not alone in our living and moving and having our being. We say we are children of God. Each one of us is. Then, however, we keep moving the circle of who we are outward to encompass more and more. We are members of a congregation. We are members of a larger church in Western Plains. We are members and joint children of God within the whole Church of the Brethren. And then we are linked with all the people of faith throughout the world. And then we are part and parcel of the great cloud of witnesses of all times and ages by whom we are surrounded. This gives our lives meaning. This is my sense of the communion that is celebrated around the world. This is my sense of the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains.
Certainly, for administrative purposes, we may be called “Western Plains District.” Probably, “district” will not entirely disappear from our vocabulary. That designation has been a useful way of organizing the church into manageable sections. However, for our sense of calling to faith and work and community, we are indeed the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains. As the Transformation Movement began, we read a book entitled, Reclaiming the Great Commission, by Bishop Claude Payne. As his church members began their renewal, they began to identify what had been individual churches now as “outposts” of the larger congregation of the church. Rather than thinking of ourselves as being in “outposts,” however, we can celebrate our kinship (Susan Boyer’s words at District Conference) by regarding ourselves as all linked in the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains. As each person makes a contribution, each congregation makes its own contribution, and together we have a strength that cannot be destroyed. This kinship is made even more vital by our Conference and by our Gathering. Certainly, we are blessed by each person and by each congregation! And when all is said and done, all persons and all congregations are enhanced in the warm, active, challenging, comforting embrace of the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains. Even more wonderful, we are all part of the work and joy of Jesus Christ that goes round the whole world without end. AMEN
Sonja Griffith, DEM