We Are One
by Elias Dummer
Once upon a time, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada—my hometown—was a blue-collar industrial giant, employing tens of thousands and producing sixty percent of our nation’s steel. Not anymore. Thousands of acres of industry sit largely empty and employ a meager five percent of what they once did. In my lifetime, our city has boasted little more than some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country and abandoned storefronts left to remind us of a bygone age. In more recent years we had come to be known by many as the “armpit of Canada” and we had started to believe—even about ourselves—that nothing good could ever come from Hamilton.
Until something incredible happened.
Fifteen years ago, churches began to work together to bless our city. These churches from different denominations—calling themselves TrueCity—gathered to worship together, listen to and learn from one another, and to imagine a better future for our struggling town. And, most importantly, they resolved to do something about it. In nearly abandoned neighborhoods that couldn’t see hope through the fog of poverty, churches led the way in collaboration. Students followed suit, gathering several times a year to worship together and serve those in need, and nearly five years ago representatives from 35 churches gathered around a group of worship leaders from that event to send them out into the world to unite Christians and churches in worship and mission. That band was The City Harmonic, and it has been a joy to take that torch with us all around the world.
Today, Hamilton has experienced an incredible transformation, and the once decayed downtown is booming amidst urban renewal and cultural revival. Churches are growing and, in many cases, doubling in size. We’ve still got a long way to go, but our hometown has become a place characterized by hope, not desperation.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a part of this movement, it is that it would be a tragedy to wait until we agree on everything before being willing to do something together as the Church for the good of our communities. This isn’t to say that our theology or traditions are irrelevant, but rather that we must hold them humbly. Christian Orthodoxy, particularly that found in our creeds, is a much broader brush than most of us would want to admit. I think it is essential that we recognize that we’re all trying to figure it out, and it has been this way for nearly 2,000 years.
But here’s the incredible part, and it’s incredible whether we’re talking about the people in the pews on our Sunday mornings or the churches we try to rally together…we don’t unite the Church, Jesus does. Meaning, if we are in Christ, we are One. Jesus has made us family.
Every time we gather to worship in our churches, we must remember that our unity is found not only in our common beliefs, but in the person of Jesus. Salvation and reconciliation come not just from a good idea that we happen to agree with, but from an ever merciful, flesh-and-blood man from a town from which nobody believed good things could come. This man was crucified and died only to return and ascend to rule as Lord, promising future hope and the eventual redemption of all things. This man was fully man and fully God. Belief in the Trinity is essential to the Christian faith, in part, because it is the best explanation for the historical event of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Essentially we believe that God, who exists throughout all of our story and Scripture in three distinct persons, is still One. He says so himself!
Incredibly, Jesus’ prayer for us found in John 17:22-23 reveals that his desire is that we, his followers, would be “One As We Are One.” It is a prayer for unity in the Church. And then, by the cross and empty tomb, He made it possible.
In Jesus, our divided lives can become whole as we learn to love Him with our whole bodies, our souls and our minds. In Jesus, if we’re willing to be changed, our divided neighborhoods can taste reconciliation and justice. In Jesus, there is a unity that goes beyond our alliances of convenience, and is born of radical and loving grace. For the sake of the world, the very same world that God loves so much that He gave Himself for it, let’s strive to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as the family that we already are.
Believers of different backgrounds, races, struggles but one Church. Churches of different denominations, traditions, cultures, but one Bride. Make us One.
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