It feels like Philippians

Today the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly felt a lot like Philippians. I’ve been joining in the challenge from Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman to study Philippians before the Church of the Brethren’s next Conference.

I confess I haven’t gotten to memorizing the letter yet, I always have the excuse that I’m too busy–which of course is no excuse at all! But today during worship, as the benediction was given, I found Philippians running through my head.

A colleague at work has asked me to explain why it is important for a Brethren delegation to be at the WCC meeting, she wanted to pass it along to folks who question the value of ecumenical involvements.

Here’s an answer, straight out of scripture:

“Only live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel…. Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 1:27 and 2:2).

This morning during opening worship I found myself beside Linda, a young woman from Kenya, who is a delegate from the Anglican church in her country. For both of us, it is our first experience of a WCC Assembly, and we both confessed to nervousness as well as excitement.

Yesterday in the bus to our hotel, I found myself beside a woman from the United Church of Canada, who serves as a staff member of her denomination as I do for mine. We had some time to talk about our work.

In the afternoon business session, I found myself beside a Korean woman who is a guest at the Assembly from a local church congregation in central Busan. She spoke little English but we managed to help each other out nevertheless. I helped her find translation equipment, and she repaid the favor with a fresh tangerine and a cookie out of her bag of snacks.

At lunch today I found myself beside Jan Thompson, a member of our Brethren delegation. We found a quiet table in the exhibit hall (quiet being relative in an assembly of some 5,000 people all speaking different languages) and had a chance to share our experiences of the morning and compare notes.

At the end of the evening business, I found myself beside an eastern European woman, who is also writing about the assembly for one of her church’s publications. Her husband is a delegate, and I had a chance to meet him as well. She shared some friendly frustration at the need to listen to reports that were given verbally as well as handed out on paper, and I nodded in complete understanding. I had been frustrated at that too.

How can we Christians stand firm, and strive side by side, if we don’t make the effort to get out and meet and talk with each other and get to know each other? It is only by getting together–whether in our congregation, or our district, or our Annual Conference, or even a huge ecumenical meeting–that we can work on being in full accord, having the same mind, having the same love.

Being the body of Christ.

–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

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