Foretaste of Heaven

This past weekend, I attended a retreat with my seminary cohort.  Four cohorts were invited, so I would estimate that there about 60 people there. Our group was designated as the “hosts” for this retreat, so we were in charge of worship/communion and a few other details. When the administration first told me that our cohort would be coordinating worship, and that the “Urban Cohort” would be joining the other cohorts for this retreat, I wondered if there would be a way to allow our worship experiences to represent the cultural/ethnic diversity of all the participants.  I believe in the strength and beauty of diversity.  I believe it is a God-given gift and should be honored and celebrated.  I also believe that when it’s ignored, the Body suffers… we miss out on the beauty, we miss out on something that is of God… and we create damage when we don’t honor it.  It’s difficult to worship God TOGETHER when some members are not welcome to bring who they are into worship.

So I approached one of the African-American pastors in our cohort and we talked about how to plan worship that would honor diversity.  There were a few things I wasn’t prepared for in this experience.  First, honoring diveristy is hard work.  It takes a lot of energy, a lot of humility, and a lot of sacrifice. There were some parts of worship and some songs that I really wanted to do, and we didn’t do them.  I had to send out a lot of emails and commit to some practices that I would rather not have done. I had to work hard at listening, and I had to release control.

On the other hand, releasing control and learning to listen opened some doors that I never realized had been closed.  I experienced a new kind of church, as I tried to create worship with people who were so different from me.  We did some of the songs I have sung most of my life, but they had more depth and different harmony than I ever knew they could.  Some of them took on a new beat.  All of that extra work, while it consumed more time and energy than throwing together a few songs, created a common ground with my African-American brothers and sisters that was not there before. 

Our worship meant so much more, because it was a work of the PEOPLE, and not just a work of Kris Anne.  Would it have been easier to do it myself? Yes. Would it have been less stressful? Yes. But what I experienced this weekend was a foretaste of heaven. I would not trade it for anything… even for a less intensive week of preparation for the retreat.  Unity within the Body does not come easily. It does not come without putting in the effort and energy. But I was changed by it. God met me in it. I think he met all of us. That would not have happened in quite the same way if I would have taken the easier route and done it alone.  I would not have grown beyond myself or tasted heaven. And heaven sure tasted SWEET!!

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