On Sept. 11, 2010 all trains, cars, buses, and planes in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Northeastern Region led to the Park Avenue Christian Church, Manhattan, NY. Over 85 persons from the Western, New England, and Metro Areas converged on Park Avenue for rousing worship and discussions on healing and releasing the past, and moving forward.
The opening worship was grand with the host pastor, Rev. Dr. Alvin Jackson preaching a "Southernly" rousing sermon and the Abundant Joy Church Choral and Band from Jersey City, NJ singing spiritually, stirring and inspiring songs. Pastor Jackson preached the theme "Where Do We Go From Here?" from Isaiah 43:1-3, 18-19.
Excerpts from Pastor Jackson's sermon:
"I want for just a moment this morning to raise the question, Where Do We Go From Here - Forward or Backward? Our theme is moving forward. And we are calling this moving forward day, but I want to just remind us this morning that we have a choice. We can either go forward or we can go backward. Where do we go from here? Dr. King raised that question years ago, where do we go from here: chaos or community, forward or backward, the choice is ours! And so I ask you members of the northeastern region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on this day, 9/11, this national day as our President has called it a day of remembrance and service - what will it be? Chaos or community? Forward or backward…where do we go from here? …
We are all here, and we are stuck in the mud. Locked in the past! Wrapped up in old wounds and paralyzed by our pain. But God is calling us to go forward!
Calling us all to be church, not to all agree. We don't have to agree on everything...be church, make visible the unity of all Christians, proclaiming that in our diversity we belong to one another because we commonly belong to Christ. Yes, I need you to survive! Stand with me, but we don't have to agree, we are all a part of God's body.
There is a paradox at the heart of the Christian understanding of church: each local congregation of baptized believers in which the gospel is preached and the sacraments celebrated - each local community where Christ is present through faith - is truly the church, but that local congregation cannot be whole unless it is living in relationship with other local congregations.
If we take the Bible seriously, no part of the church can be autonomous! Paul is unambiguous in I Corinthians: The community of Christ's followers is like a body in which the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Congregations like the bones and organs of the human body, are wonderfully diverse, but they also need one another in order to be whole. I need you to survive!
Our differences are not defects and deficits. They are just different and even divine. There is divinity in our difference and diversity. God's gift of unity to the church is never uniformity! Uniformity, that we all have to be just alike, it is that kind of thinking that drove the terrorist who blew up the world trade towers. Uniformity is the kind of thinking that drives these voices of fear and hostility and rancor about a Mosque at Ground Zero.
Unity, not uniformity is God's gift to the church! The world is filled with like-minded clubs and same colored neighborhoods. The church serves as a sign of God's purpose when it lives as a community of those who are not the same. In covenant with each other and a covenant is never legalistic; it is not a list of things to do or not to. Rather, it involves a commitment to walk together, seeking to conform ourselves as community to the mind of Christ."
All present were stirred and inspired by the Holy Spirit! Rev. Dr. Carlos Alejandro, ACPE Certified Supervisor led the plenary on "Healing, Releasing and Moving Forward". The attendees of this gathering were very racially diverse: while some were missing, Haitians, Hispanics, Asian American, African Americans and European Americans all participated in this gathering. The key issues discussed were on-going woundedness because of past words spoken and regional actions, and how to prayerfully and decisively move forward.
The participants listened to each other's stories without negating the experiences of the other. An older, Hispanic student from New Brunswick Theological Seminary stated how hurt she was after being a mother and widow, to have some people assume she was a lesbian just because she joined Park Avenue. People truly seemed to want to listen and understand.
Following lunch the participants addressed what they wanted the region to be and do together. Of course, there were varied responses Rev. Dr. Philius Nicholas responded, "I remember when there was no Black, no Hispanic, no Haitian, no White Region, but there was one Region, the Northeastern Region".
The day concluded with communion and consensus that the region would move forward together in ministry and mission. Interim Regional Minister Mary Anne Glover concluded, "The Northeastern Region is moving forward; we will gain some and will lose some, but the Northeastern Region shall move forward; covenant has been broken; this region will go through a re-covenanting process!" The planning team would meet and communicate the next steps.
Rev. Mary Anne Glover
Interim Regional Pastor
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Northeastern Region
765 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11221-1414