How many ways would you finish that sentence? I imagine many would say, “Eating a meal together” or “Visiting over coffee hour after worship.”
Those are all gatherings that people who call themselves Christian often do together. These are also gatherings that can be done with people who don’t call themselves Christian. Is there something different about gathering as people who follow Jesus?
Recently, I read an essay by Katherine Willis Pershey in which she reflects on an experience of Christian fellowship with someone leaving toxic Christianity for a more liberal, openminded faith. They met for coffee and this newbie jumped right over the chit chat/small talk to a conversation about a book she was reading by Paul Tillich. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Paul-Tillich)
Rev. Pershey did her field internship at FCC Pomona and was ordained at FCC Pomona. She writes about Christian fellowship being shared space and time between people of faith to support each other in the faith, listen together, and learn together. Typically, people think of fellowship as one thing and study or learning as something different. They are not. Our binary way of thinking can keep us, I think, from integrating our faith into our daily living.
There should be space enough at a meal in the Fellowship Hall to also share what we’ve been thinking about regarding last week’s sermon, or the way a Scripture has been challenging us in the midst of current affairs. And that space should be safe enough so conversations remain free of judgment and full of curiosity as each of us seeks to understand rather than be understood. It is a radical, counter-cultural manner of human interaction.
We have an opportunity to engage in this kind of meaningful fellowship in May. Our Organizing Team is hosting conversations to deepen our conversations and connections. After 2 years of living through a pandemic and all the pivoting that has meant for us as individuals, families, and a congregation, it is important to pause and take our collective pulse. What have the challenges been? Where and how have we found resilience? What has this experience revealed about us, about what matters? And how does our faith, our discipleship, impact our reflections and future living?
As we seek to grow up in Christ as a congregation, these conversations are critical for how we build our own solidarity for the future, so that we might emerge from this crisis stronger, more deeply rooted in God’s love, and more confident in our capacity to increase the well-being of our neighbors.