During the Week of Prayer for for Christian Unity (WPCU), the NH Council of Churches will post daily reflections from leaders its the ten member denominations. This year’s theme is “Justice and only justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20).
1 Samuel 1:13-17
Sunday worship and congregational life remain racially and ethnically segregated. The segregation is both intentional and benign. The anguished prayer for acceptance spans centuries. Yet, how can the church speak effectively and with integrity on issues of race and diversity when in our own house we worship and live in separate rooms, and how much vitality has been lost throughout the church because our various traditions haven’t cross pollinated.
Economically, it remains true that congregations of all denominations have a very difficult time embracing more than two economic classes within their social structure. Perhaps one of the reasons we have a difficult time understanding the issues of poverty is that we don’t really have the poor among us, worshipping with us, and sharing their lives with us. Maybe the reason it is so easy and acceptable to condemn the wealthy is that we don’t have wealthy and poor worshipping together, so many never experience the gifts that all have to share, or discover that humanity cuts across classes.
Then of course there are the ancient exclusions based on gender identity. No doubt in some Churches, there are those who believe progress has been made with sharing power and service through the ordination of women, and women have carved out (in some places) a share in the power structures of the church. Yet, there has not been full support for the total inclusion and integration of LGBTQia+ brothers, sisters, and siblings. No doubt, progress has been made, but that the Body of Christ needs to be cajoled, reminded, and continually exhorted that the gospel is good news for all people serves as a reminder of our inherent exclusivity. I have yet to hear of any Church body that has made a proposal for a doctrine of creation that reflects what we have learned about human sexuality, gender diversity, and (in some places) a more inclusive reading of the gospel. Too many people still wait in anguish and hope, and even when accepted in one congregation comes the knowledge that the same wait may occur again if the move to another.
Hannah’s anguished prayer, and the Canaanite woman’s challenge remain before all of us.
About the Author
Rev. Peter Boehringer serves Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Manchester. Gethesemane Lutheran Church is one of 14 New Hampshire congregations of the New England synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.