What do you get when two chaplains, four ministers and two seminary professors go to dinner? This sounds like the beginning of a cheesy joke, doesn’t it? In reality, it was a wonderful reminder to me about how the Kingdom of God can be present in this world.
Earlier this week, I shared a meal with a group of friends from Brite Divinity School. We are part of a program called “Brite Beyond Brite” that helps recent graduates transition from seminary into ministry. We have two professors who work with our group, and we meet a few times a year. Our cohort has been together since last January, and it has been a valuable source of friendship and support for me.
What struck me last night was how diverse our group is. I am the lone United Methodist in my cohort. Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Unitarian Universalist Association denominations are all represented in our group.
As we swapped stories about our ministries over shared chips and queso, we didn’t argue about theology. Instead, we supported and affirmed each other and our diverse ministries. We asked questions with intent to learn, not to convince. We truly wanted to hear the other person’s response; we weren’t just waiting for our turn to speak. It doesn’t matter that our theology differs. We are all working to represent the Good News in the world.
I left the dinner in a wonderful mood. Not only had I gotten to spend time with my friends and colleagues, but I feel like, for a moment, I got to witness the Kingdom of God first hand. I left empowered to take that same spirit with me into future conversations with others.
We are in a difficult time in the United Methodist Church; A time when we are often having conversations at one another instead of with one another, a time where we aren’t listening to learn but simply waiting for our turn to speak. My hope is that we can all recognize that the Kingdom of God is wider and more diverse than we could ever begin to imagine. If we start from that idea, how might our interactions with others be changed?