The sun is unforgiving as I wait for my friend, seated on a blue bench in a school park across from the church. A tractor rumbles somewhere in the distance.
I glance up at the steeple of one of the three Reformed churches in this farming hamlet and wonder, Why us, Lord? Are we even supposed to be doing this? Oh Lord, help –
And just then my friend pulls up in her minivan, the kids pile out to play, and we stumble over a prayer before heading into the church.
This is the fourth pastor I’ve met with, the final church, and I am shaky. We take the stairs to the basement and find him in his office. He jumps up to greet us, smiles, and we’re instantly at ease as we sit and begin to talk about the reason we’ve come: unity.
What does unity look like amongst the body of Christ, we wonder? And is it possible in a community that’s been struggling through not just one, but two church splits in the past two generations?
I tell him that I’m a pastor’s daughter and that I’ve lived many places and attended many different churches. I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with the church, but after forgiving my father – who for many years was my pastor – I began to love the church. And I began to ache for her as the Bride of Christ to know who she really is – the Second Eve with Jesus being the Second Adam.
The light is gentler now, peering through the horizontal eye of a window, and the pastor pulls out his Bible, turns to Ephesians 2, and we read about Jesus coming to destroy the dividing wall of hostility between us.
Then he thanks us for our witness as parents.
“We lose sight of these things,” he says. “We get too concerned about semantics and meanwhile, you are living out the gospel – gathering together as women from different congregations, studying the Word together, praying together, your kids playing together – you are showing us what matters.”
We’re quiet, grateful, thinking of how the Spirit led us to start a prayer group for mothers from both Christian schools a few years ago, and how that led to an interdenominational Bible Study for women from all three churches.
Coffee and prayer
After asking God this summer if there was something more he would like to do through us, I was nudged by the Spirit to write a letter to the pastors in the community. A letter inviting them to consider what steps could be taken amongst them to further unity.
Slowly we’ve been meeting with these pastors, the Bible between us. We are discussing how to keep the Bible as the center of the church but not a divisive tool. How can we get back to the message that we are all sinners in need of a Saviour? How can we get back to the cross?
And they’ve all agreed that coffee together as pastors from different denominations and congregations would be good. Coffee and prayer. Studying God’s Word together. This is good.
We bow to pray together now in that gentle light, seascape paintings on the wall, blue carpet beneath our feet, as though we’re being baptized into something ancient and new, and suddenly tears come to my friend’s eyes and she can’t finish her prayer. She’s just mentioned the men in the community. She’s trying to pray for the fathers in our farming hamlet, but she’s too choked up, and doesn’t know why. Soon it becomes clear.
More than we ask for
God is not just doing this for the pastors. God is crying out for the men of this community – and not just of this community, but of the world. In these three churches, he’s using the mothers to nudge, because it’s time for the fathers to rise. It’s time for them to become giants in the faith, in prayer, in fellowship, in love.
We say goodbye, walk back out into the glaring sun, pick up tired children, and head home. We are at peace, knowing that like these sticky-fingered precious little ones in our arms, God is giving birth to something uncontrollable and beautiful. Something bigger than our ideas and dreams. As the pastor read to us from Ephesians 3:20-21 before we left, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.”