thatallofthemmaybeone Earlier this summer, my intern and I were on a movie watching spree. My little town doesn’t have a movie theater. But we do have a video store. And that store has dollar days too! There are some advantages to small town living. One weekend, I watched The Butler, the story of a black man serving in the White House through some of our country’s most difficult history. Part of the story includes seeing a family torn apart by the son who wanted to make things better. The father had done what he could to make a better life for his family but wasn’t willing to go any further. He was afraid. He wanted to protect his family from the hardships he had faced in coming as far as he did. But that wasn’t enough for the son. They were more alike than they were different because the son was compelled by the same longing for a better life…the same longing his father had when he left the cotton fields all those years before. Last week I wrote about being a spiritual misfit growing up in a conservative faith tradition. For many years, I was asked why do you stay? Why do you continue to fight the fight? And often the intonation is one of wishing I would just give it up and leave. Stop making waves. Stop asking people to face the hard questions and to defend their beliefs and words and choices. Especially when those beliefs and words and choices are not reflected nor supported in scripture. But just like the butler’s son, I can’t quit. I can feel and see and smell the day when all are welcomed, included, and encouraged to use their gifts without regard to gender or race or social status. When the call of God on individual lives is not bound by something we have no control over, like our gender or race. When the contributions of everyone are valued without regard to their financial contributions.

At this point in my life, I am not attending the particular brand of church that I grew up in. There just aren’t that many options in a small town. And it’s really not so much about my own faith tradition, because I know these things happen in other denominations as well. But there are also places where it’s different. This past Sunday, I was privileged to lead my small group in the absence of our leader. Afterwards, I left my regular church and drove to a different church down the street where my intern was preaching her last sermon before returning to seminary. It was there that I was asked to help serve communion and to lead a prayer…although a newcomer, a woman, and from a different denomination, I was welcomed and asked to serve the body. I am reminded of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane,

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you
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are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23

On Sunday morning it felt like Jesus’ prayer had been answered. And I could see how and why the world would be affected through our unity. Through the way we support and encourage and honor one another. The way we love. Oh that it would be so and that the world would believe in Him.

That’s why I stay.

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Holly Barrett

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