Several weeks ago Laurel got a piece of glass in her toe. I was very puzzled about where it could have come from; she said she stepped on something in the kitchen, but I didn’t remember anything breaking in there recently. It turns out that a glass pie plate had broken and Bud had swept it up. One of the tiny shards must have scattered farther than the others and Laurel’s unsuspecting toe found it.
Sometimes I look at this little town of Greene, New York, with its abundance of churches, mostly along one stretch of road, and I almost see the broken body of Christ. It’s not the broken body which Christ Himself offered on the cross; it’s a splintered, fragmented body. A piece fell here and a piece fell there. Some scattered linearly; some scattered in other directions.
The way I see it, within a church different people are equipped with different gifts that together allow the church to function. Read through Ephesians 4. Is it possible, though, that within the greater body of Christ, different churches fulfill different roles? Some churches excel in their worship, some in their teaching, some in their service to others.
We tend to focus on our differences to reassure ourselves that where we are attending is right or even superior, when actually we have so much in common with the church down the street, if we only open our eyes to it.
My grandmother got me thinking about all this when, in her memoir, she talks about the churches she and her siblings (Peter, Aksel, Sigrid, Elna, and Nichol) ended up attending. Altogether there were six children, but only the youngest two, my grandmother and her brother Nichol, were born in the United States. Here’s what she said,
My first name was for a Baptist woman Ruth Woodworth. My parents were Lutheran, but there was no Lutheran Church nearer than Lynn, so some Baptist people asked to take the children to Sunday School. I was christened in the Lutheran Church in Boston when I was two years old. I was baptized at sixteen, but my mother would not come to see it. Lutherans are confirmed at fourteen and she thought it was wrong for me to be baptized, even tho I had grown up in the Baptist Church!
Aksel joined the Episcopal Church as he had sung in their boys choir. Elna did also. Rev & Mrs. E. J. V. Huiginn helped Aksel to go to M. I. T. but he payed them back. Sigrid would not join the Baptist Church as her Sunday School teacher had pressured her too much. Nichol joined the Baptist Church after I did. Peter joined the Lutheran Church after he started going with Lillie.
Out of six children, two ended up at the Episcopal Church because one sang in the boys choir. Two ended up at Baptist because someone offered to bring them to church. One was turned off to church by an over-zealous teacher. One joined the church his parents had known. The only mention of doctrine is in regards to christening and baptism and the age at which confirmation occurs. Hmmm…
Every morning, I pray for the churches in Greene. It’s very easy for me to mentally go down the street and name each one with its pastor. Each one fulfills a role in the community and in the greater body of Christ. These are some of the things I pray (from The Book of Common Prayer)
Send down upon (these churches and their pastors) the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing.
…That (these churches) may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions…
It’s that line about unhappy divisions that made me think of the glass shard in Laurel’s toe. This splintered, shattered body of Christ would honor Him so much more if we could join together. Idealistic, I know.
Join me on a walk past the village churches in Greene. They are all on one street.