I began to write this, my first column for the Anglican Journal, on the plane heading back home after General Synod. My head and heart are full of intense, exhilarating and painful moments from the previous week, as the Anglican Church of Canada gathered together to discern the work God has given us to undertake. That discernment called us to work together as a community.
In high school, in the midst of the cliques and divisions that inevitably grow as teenagers form their identity, I found a home in the community of Christian young people in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). These young people welcomed all—the geeks and the cool kids, the jocks and the artists! Everyone was included as they lived out that primary command to love God and love your neighbour as yourself.
From that time I knew that Christian community is a gift that must be nurtured and protected. I experienced it again when I lived and worked at Woodstock Christian School in India, an international boarding school. Students and staff came from all over the world and lived together in community. All had left family and familiarity, and we needed each other especially in the midst of international political tensions that directly touched our lives. Differences of race, culture and language stretched us to live together with compassion, to seek understanding and to discover joy in relationships we had not expected. I continue to seek and find this kind of community in Christ in ecumenical dialogues, nationally and internationally, and within our beloved Anglican Communion.
We are called by our baptism to love of God and each other. St. Paul (1 Cor. 12) vividly describes our community as the “body of Christ” in which all have a place and a purpose. Other passages call us to love in word and action so that the world will see something of God in our midst (1 John 4; Romans 12:4-13).
In a world that increasingly seeks to polarize people into rigid camps, marked by hatred or rejection of the other, we are called to be a community in which love is stronger than hate; in which disagreement on an issue does not demand separation; in which uniformity is not demanded; in which diversity is our teacher; in which we all acknowledge our own limitations and seek in good conscience to respond to God’s call.
In the midst of both rejoicing and agonized pain at General Synod, we continued to worship together: lifting our voices in song; praying together; reflecting on scripture together; and sitting together as children of God—all called by name, all forgiven, all valued, all needed in community together. St. Paul’s image of the body reminds us that no one is more important than the other; the body functions when all exercise their gifts for the sake of the whole. We do not yet live perfectly as the body of Christ, and we have wounded each other. However, I see the signs of hope as we grow into our calling.
Our witness to the world demands that we build communities, rooted in Christ, where all are welcomed and valued as we each and together respond to the gospel. When we fail to live up to our calling in community, we veil the light of Christ. When we do it well, the light of Christ shines strong and clear, inviting others to join us in the adventure of faith that brings wholeness of life.