By Jessica Brodie
One of the most beautiful moments of Annual Conference for me came on the final day, when I had the honor of hearing African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Ronnie E. Brailsford Sr. bring greetings on behalf of his denomination to ours.
“We are all a part of the Methodist family, hallelujah!” he said. “And I feel very much at home because we have one God, one faith, one baptism, and when we all get to heaven, we will celebrate and rejoice together.”
As our own resident Bishop Jonathan Holston had said two evenings prior, at this year’s Annual Conference, we had the distinct privilege of being able to have in one room for one purpose representatives from the AME, AME Zion and CME churches, all there to hear AME Zion Bishop Marjorie Hines preach ordination service and to help our annual conference celebrate The United Methodist Church’s 50th anniversary.
As our bishop said, what was particularly notable and heartwarming about their presence was that our uniting as a denomination 50 years ago came about because we the people called Methodist felt called by God to no longer be segregated by race and, instead, to put our differences aside to be stronger together. We united because we recognized we were family, no matter what we looked like or what our cultural traditions were.
Sadly, in America today and in many parts of the world, we still haven’t fully gotten that message. We stay cliqued into our own little tiny corners of the world. Sometimes it’s not even race that’s the issue. Sometimes it’s language; sometimes it’s our financial status.
We see this in middle school and high school, don’t we? The pretty, long-haired girls who dress in the latest fashions stick to their own. The sporty, muscular guys with a passion for football stick to their own. The kids with a talent for math stick to their own.
Don’t we do that as adults, too? How often is it that you see a church that is truly diverse? It’s not as often as we like! Look around you in the pews. Even if we have racial diversity, many of our congregations still all look the same way, grew up the same way, make about the same income, have about the same level of education, or have very similar political views.
But when we take a step away from our own clique, our own church, our own circle of friends and family, and we begin to look around at others who are also Christian, we realize our family is nothing like us at all on the surface except where it counts: in matters of faith.
Bishop Brailsford’s words, and Bishop Holston’s words, reminded us that we are all family. We all worship the same God. When we get to heaven, we will all be together as one.
As humans, we often focus on so many differences, but that’s all a lie.
We are one!