But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
Representatives and guests gathered in Columbus, Ohio for the Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the words of the foundational text were a source of inspiration and strength. There was much to appreciate from this partner church and opportunity to reflect on our similarities and differences. The clear anxiety about declining numbers sounded familiar with the call to review the cost and frequency of Assembly, the challenge of vocation to the young, the need to plant new churches and for Disciples to be mission focussed. I even heard some echo of the conversation around the use of the word evangelism! I did feel compelled in a workshop to point out that compared to our experience in the UK they were still riding the edge of the storm and they needed to begin the painful transition to being a minority in a culture where they until recently held a central place.
The format of Assembly reflected the nature of an open gathering rather than business only. Mornings offered a wide range of educational opportunities. As a guest of Global Ministries I had the opportunity to exchange stories with other international guests. A keynote speaker was Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Jordan and the Holy Land and we shared several meal times together. He left the Assembly in no doubt that it was failed US and European foreign policy that had de-stabilised the Middle East and led the to the refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon. 1.6millioin refugees out of a population of 6 million puts the problems of refugees entering the UK into a different perspective.
Business was restricted to the afternoon with resolutions on gun control, the burning and intimidation of black churches, the nuclear deal with Iran, the unification of Korea being issues where painful and potentially divisive issues were handled with sensitivity. Evening sessions were given over to worship with guest preachers inviting us all to SOAR!
There is much to learn and much to share in this global family of ours and I was glad to have been part of the continuing story.