In our common work as a synod, we say
that we will "build partnerships that are local, global, and mutually transformative." As we lean into that goal, we are mindful that relationships require intentional work. Globally, in our walk with companions in Iringa, we have learned that it is through the shared practices of prayer, presence, and projects done with and for one another that our partnership has grown and remained strong. These same activities, I contend, can help shape our relationships with local mission partners as well.
Take what happened this past Sunday as one example...
It was Pentecost at Christ on Capitol Hill
. The story in Acts 2 was read in a multitude of languages - English, Khmer, Tigrina, French, and Swahili to name just a few. I was invited to bring greetings from Iringa and to preach. There was music and there was laughter and, most remarkably, there were two separate congregations who share the same roof gathered into one.
This was a special worship service co-hosted by the people of Christ on Capitol Hill and Rock of Ages Missionary Baptist church. It was a morning marked by words of encouragement from the pastors of both congregations, the blending of their choirs, the joining of hands, and the fellowship of a potluck picnic following the service. It was, to me, a picture of what God's Church could be/should be/is that was as clear as what I see occurring in Iringa on a regular basis: God's people, gathered together, in prayer and fellowship - across marked differences in ethnicity, nationality, culture, class, and creed.
For them, this was a milestone moment.
Although these two congregations share physical space with one another and collaborate on some community projects together, this joint worship was something new. It united them, intentionally, as one body professing their faith in one God. With words both spoken and sung, it was declared that God's Spirit was there, gathering all in and sending all out... each in her or his own way, yet all as one.
As I travel between Minnesota and Tanzania and across both the Saint Paul Area Synod and the Iringa Diocese, I'm welcomed into a whole host of congregations and I'm able to witness, first hand, the many ways in which we are all learning to walk beside our neighbors both near and far. Shared worship services like the one I observed this past Sunday occur with some regularity and each is a reason to celebrate. Rather than being an end in their own right, I understand them to be signposts and indicators... next steps on the shared journey of God's mission and tangible reminders that we are, all of us, on the way together.
All thanks be to God,
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop