The Unity Tree

 Photo: Yours Truly

Photo: Yours Truly

Church in Bethesda has the privilege of hosting an Oromo Congregation in our building on Sunday afternoons. From time to time, there is some overlap in our comings and goings as the last of our folks are leaving and the first of their folks are arriving.

Each time there's overlap, it's always a joy to see them. They are a very warm and joyous people. As an introvert, I always prefer head-nods to handshakes, and handshakes to hugs, but they just hug me anyway. And it's for real. There's something deeply genuine about their affection.

This past Sunday, I was invited to say a few words at their worship service. Their church and some other Oromo churches from around the country had come into D.C. to celebrate the ordination of their pastor.

The service was vibrant and upbeat- the congregation singing, shouting, clapping, and dancing. I didn't know any of the songs, nor was anything being said or sung in English, but as I closed my eyes and reached out from within myself, I could feel the same Spirit at work that I do in our own worship services.

This took me by surprise, because (on paper at least) our churches are very different in tradition, doctrine, and practice.

For all my years of barking up "the unity tree," there I stood getting a lethal dose of my own medicine, bringing me to tears. I couldn't help but thinking of a passage from Ephesians that continued to loop in mind throughout the rest of the service.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit... one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
— Ephesians 4:3-6

If you think about all that ails our world today (and especially what ails those of us from differing faith traditions) this passage is the cure.

It takes effort to see God in people. It takes effort to practice unity, especially when others might believe something different than we do, or practice their faith in a way that we don't understand or resonate with fully.

There's only one Spirit, and He/She/They/It is over all, through all, and in all. And if we give it the effort it deserves, we'll see that same Spirit staring back at us through the eyes of others.

Selah.


 
 Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.  Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.  Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.  Ryan is an  INTJ  on the MBTI and a  5w4  on the Enneagram.

Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.

Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.

Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.

Ryan is an INTJ on the MBTI and a 5w4 on the Enneagram.

Ryan Phipps