This Sunday, we served communion after we participated in #chimewithcharleston as a way to remind ourselves not only of Jesus’ sacrifice, but also the sacrifice of the nine people who were following in his footsteps as they welcomed the stranger into their community. It was a holy time as we remembered their broken bodies and their blood shed and as we remembered Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. And we remembered that the Lord’s table invites us all in. We remembered that the table is also a symbol of hope and reconciliation.
As I walked away from the table, I realized that it was a powerful image to have my serving alongside our summer intern Jeff who has just finished his first year of seminary.
A black man and a white woman ministering to a congregation might seem odd to a lot of people. In fact, as I have introduced him to people as our intern, we have gotten responses like, “Oh that’s great, so now your congregation is multiracial.” Even though the person didn’t know anything about Emmanuel or the makeup of our congregation, the underlying assumption is that we wouldn’t be serving together.
We could have brushed off the comment as ill-informed or misguided as it certainly was, but there is a deeper issue for us baptists who consider ourselves moderate or progressive. What are we really doing to try to serve together, as men and women, black and white, and people from all different kinds of backgrounds. Are we really challenging ourselves to connect and serve together or are we much more comfortable serving ourselves?
What if it didn’t take nine deaths to bring churches in the same city together? What if partnership were our natural inclination rather than competition?
I’m guessing the world would look a little different if we as leaders in churches and we as leaders in our community served together.
NOTE: This post originally appeared at http://merianna.net/2015/06/serving-together/.
Rev. Merianna Neely Harrelson serves as pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship and is stepmom to two wonderful children.