Unity in the Midst of Diversity

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I’m on vacation. My husband and daughters and I packed up the mini-van to leave the mountains of Colorado for the sands of Lake Michigan. One of the pleasures of cross country driving is the opportunity for convenient home-town flavor right along the route. It matters not where you are going because every road on this continent will eventually lead you to the familiar tastes of the golden arches. How do they do it? The sausage biscuit and hash browns in Altoona, Iowa tastes exactly like the sausage biscuit and hash browns from the McDonalds on Hampden and Oneida by my house.

And we want it that way! When we pull into McDonalds, we expect the French fries to awaken the same taste buds as the fries we have at home.  And it’s not just McDonalds. A Wendy’s burger better be square, Arby’s Jamocha shake better taste just as yummy and Tim Horton’s had better be as good as I remember when our family crosses the border!

There’s something about the familiar that attracts us.

At the same time, we are easily bored. And we are clever enough to know that variety is good for us—we lean on our theology to say that God, with his infinite imagination, created a world of endless options in the colors and voices of nature. I imagine that the sounds of a redwood, a pinion and a maple tree clapping their hands are all very different. (Is. 55:12)

We went to church on Sunday with my parents. Same CRC denomination. Something familiar about the building, the songs, the worship habits, the sermon, the response . . .

Yet something different too. Perhaps a flavor that reflected this congregation’s own character, or a taste of the culture of its community.

In recent years, it seems to be trendy to point out our individuality in worship. If only I had a dime for every time I heard someone say, “My church is not a typical CRC!” Great . . . if they mean that they have tapped into the unique gifts and character of their own congregation and the place where they’ve been planted.

But I fear that the comment is more an indication of our western love affair with personal expression and individuality than a true desire to live out godly creativity. What’s so bad about having some things in common? I’m not advocating “uniformity,” just “unity.”

I wonder . . .

What about worship is (or should be) familiar . . . in all Christian practice regardless of place, time, denomination, etc?

What is (or could be . . . or should be?) familiar about worship within our denomination?

Without falling into the pattern of “franchising,” what are some of the ways we can build and strengthen unity of worship even in our diversity?  

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