It took us a few weeks to coordinate our schedules, but when we finally connected, we decided to meet at the funky, hipster coffee shop on the edge of downtown Denver that lies halfway between the churches that we each serve. Rob is the pastor at a new church plant in the neighborhood where I serve a mainline, 124 year-old congregation.
At first glance we couldn’t be serving more different communities. Rob is serving a non-denominational Evangelical church that meets in a renovated warehouse filled with IKEA style furniture and hipster decor. Each day I step into an old stone Harry Potter looking church filled with stain glass, traditional architecture, pews, and a 1907 pipe organ.
I’m fairly certain we vote for opposing political parties, and that our different theologies and ways of reading scripture lead us to opposing sides on major political, cultural, and theological issues. I’m guessing that these differences can be heard woven subtly into the words we preach each week.
As we met, ordered our coffee, and found our way to the old couches and 70’s era coffee tables at the back of the shop, we couldn’t help but discover what we had in common.
Not only are we about the same age, with similar age kids, but we both feel dissatisfied with the divisiveness of much of the religious discourse in the public sphere. We named the complex nature of ‘following Jesus’ in a world that loves to divide us into ‘us’ and ‘them’.
We discovered that we live just a few miles apart, and that we searched for the same qualities in finding a community in which to raise our children. We found that central to each of our theologies is the importance of ‘relationship’ as our central call in building community and preaching the Gospel. We each value diversity and collaboration over being the only one who is ‘right’.
We named that as pastors serving just blocks apart we do not see each other as ‘competition’, rather our real ‘competition’ is complacency, busy-ness, and disinterest in spiritual depth and caring communities. We both feel called to guide people into deeper ways of living and loving God and each other– even if our methods are very different. The God we love is generous. Generous enough to bridge political, theological, racial, and cultural difference.
As I stir with this conversation, I wonder who else around the country is building relationships with unlikely partners? How might we cross our divisions to work for a common hope of growing in the ways of healing, feeding and loving?
I see this as a great gift of the CANA Initiative. Connecting those on the edges who seek to build bridges in the name of hope.