For a long time I’ve liked to use the analogy of a family when describing the Church.
We know about families. We have brothers, sisters, in-laws, uncles, stepsisters, grandparents, cousins.
Some we like a lot. Some we don’t know so well. Some we find, frankly, weird. Some we don’t even talk to any more.
The church can be like that. Many of us have a ‘home’ denomination. We feel safe there. We’re surrounded by people who are like us. We understand the language that is used. We know what is expected of us. We know what to expect.
Perhaps we’re aware of ‘sibling’ churches. Not quite like us, but similar. We can get along ok. We wish they’d change a few things, but we tolerate their quirks.
Perhaps, though, we also have an estranged ‘parent’ church. A group or denomination that we split away from. For some the split happened amicably, but for others it was a wrenching, violent, argument. Maybe the split happened last year, or maybe it was centuries ago. In both cases the wounds can still be felt.
And then there are those cousins that we’ve never met. Those strange folks that we’ve heard are somehow related to us, that we’ve seen in pictures, but we really know nothing about. They might even speak a different language. Their practices are different. They’ve focused on different elements of the faith than we have. We might have a lot to learn from each other, but no one seems to be in a hurry to even start the conversation.
Maybe this describes you. It certainly describes me. But there’s something else I’ve learned, too.
I have never regretted reaching out to my family.
Frequently I have found them strange, different, weird, frustrating. But just as frequently I have learned something important from them. And just like my physical family, which is spread across the globe, I know I have a deep and profound connection to my distant brothers and sisters in the faith. A connection that transcends language, culture and geography.
So I’m committed to seeking out the links that connect us. Our shared faith, our shared heritage, our shared hope.
Because even if you’re weird, and do things differently, and speak a strange language, doesn’t mean you’re not family.