I have a daughter who is 9 months old. At this age, she loves to clap her hands together whenever she hears a song, particularly to the “ABC’s” or “The Wheels on the Bus”. I remember loving to sing songs with hand movements like, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Father Abraham” when I was a kid growing up in the church.
As an older child, I was introduced to a little rhyme that included lacing my fingers together at the knuckles, fingers facing down, and creating a ball with my fists . It went like this, “Here is the Church (thumbs come out and thumb tips together), here is the steeple (pointer fingers come out and fingertips together), open remaining fingers) and see all the people!”. it up (twist hands inward and upward, wiggling.
The movements were not only difficult, but it took me several tries, watching friends, before I was able to master the lacing of my hands. I was reminded of this song after a visit this past Sunday at Salem Presbyterian Church because the song we learned during the Children’s sermon invited us to consider how “we” make up the Church, together.
Union-PSCE alum Rev. Janet Chisom invited children, and the congregation alike, to participate in singing a beautiful hymn by Richard Avery and Donald Marsh, titled, “We are the Church”. It goes as follows:
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!
The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people. (Refrain)
We’re many kinds of people,
with many kinds of faces,
all colors and all ages, too
from all times and places. (Refrain)
And when the people gather,
there’s singing and there’s praying;
there’s laughing and there’s crying sometimes,
all of it saying: (Refrain)
Rev. Chisom proceeded to preach on 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23, the lectionary text for that Sunday. She highlighted Paul’s reminder that Jesus Christ is our foundation, that God’s spirit dwells within each of us, the people, and not a building, and that we belong to Christ.
The hymn, “We are the Church” embodies Christian unity unlike the childhood rhyme I learned because the church is not about a building, nor the steeple, and we are not bound by our walls to be called “church”. When we gather, there is singing, and praying, and laughing and crying, all of it reminding us that WE are the Church.
Before the service began, Rev. Chisom shared with me that she and Rev. Will Robinson felt called by the Spirit to preach on our unity in Christ despite our differences in age, looks, abilities, and passions.
She is not alone in feeling compelled, as a clergy-person, to preach prophetically and rigorously about Christ’s Lordship and our collective call to love one another.
This is an unusual time for congregations around our nation in the aftermath of the 2016 election season. Many congregations celebrate the changes in our political atmosphere. Many congregations are troubled by the changes in our political atmosphere, while others may be experiencing tumult as members feel split between party lines. Paul reminds us, however, that we are all in this together. We belong to each other and we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
So this day, be encouraged that God’s word is timeless and in all times and places, of all colors and ages, WE are many kinds of people who make the Church, together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world, YES! We are the Church together.
Rev. Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer