This is the time for us to get it together. Whether you stand with her, or want to build a wall, the church has always been a place of refuge. The church has always been a place for enemies to sit at the same table. Our whole lives we have been told to shoot for the stars, stand up for what we believe in, to fight for what is right; we have been told what to buy, where to buy it, what to wear, how much weight to lose, and how to cut and style our hair. We have been talked about as if we are not in the room. We can not gather at the same table of the generations before us, despite them being the ones who introduced us to the church, to the faith. No longer can we sit idly by while our voices, decisions, and opinions are controlled and dismissed.
Division and schism are pervasive in every conversation within the borders of our United States. This is the time for the church to be counter-cultural, to be a voice which unifies instead of divides, which reconciles instead of exiling, and redeems instead of destroys. While we have heard the voices which yell loudly, screaming, “schism,” we call the leaders of our church to hear our voice which calmly requests, “unity. Love. Hold in tension. Offer grace.”
Our churches have searched high and low for signs of vitality, including the presence of young people in our pews. We’re in your pews. We’re in your seminaries. We’re at your Christian liberal arts institutions. We’re lamenting the state of our church. Because it IS our church, too.
Have you considered that the headphones in our ears have protected us from the constant criticisms and assumptions the world has for us? Have you considered that perhaps those headphones are full of podcasts about faith and justice? Have you considered that the person on the other side of our texting conversations offer life-giving affirmation? Have you considered the redemptive quality of contemporary Christian music in its ability to make something new out of something ancient? Have you considered we have already contributed to our congregations?
Have you considered that we love the church? We love the mystery of communion. The holiness of creeds. The pursuit of kin-dom. The anticipation of what is to come. The hope of what could be. The active participation in gathering together as the people of God. Setting aside differences. Passing peace. Breaking bread. Remembering baptism. Dwelling in holy places with holy people. Jesus. We love Jesus.
We recognize that things aren’t perfect. We recognize that some people can not gather at the table. We recognize that some can not live out their God-given calling because of their identity. We recognize that often our feelings are hurt. We recognize that you don’t mean it. We recognize that we get discouraged. We recognize this is difficult, painstaking work. But we love Jesus. And Jesus always calls us back to a place that we love, but keeps us uncomfortable, in order that we may be moved to usher in the reign of God.
We also recognize that none of that is possible without the invitation of the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, come. We expect her to move. We have experienced her power. In the stillness, and in the noise. In the confusion, and in the clarity. In the holy, and in the mundane. The Holy Spirit will always be more pervasive than any divisive language or hatred. This is what we are sure of.
We have sat in your Sunday School classrooms. We have listened to your sermons. We have been leaders and active participants in youth groups across the country. Now, we are ready to be adults. Please let us. Let us be your pastors. Let us be your worship leaders. Let us fill your pews. Let us sit on your commissions. Let us drink coffee in your sanctuary. Let us mess up. Welcome us back. The God we serve is ALIVE, and so are we. The church is ALIVE, and so are we.
This is the time for us to call on you: the pillars of our churches, our Sunday School teachers, our mentors in faith, to empower us to continue the pursuit of unity that we may be an example for our country and our world. We can not create disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world alone. We must do it together. You have taught us what it means to be disciples. You have taught us what it means that “Jesus loves me, this I know.” You have taught us that “Jesus loves all the little children in the world.” You have done your job. Well done, good and faithful servants. Empower us to do the same for our friends, our children, and our families.
As we prepare to have difficult conversations as a church with potentially drastic consequences, remember to bring your open hears, open minds, and open tables with you. Make space. Turn tables. Amplify our voices.
We are committed to the hope we find in God’s sacred word, expressed beautifully by Julian of Norwich: All shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.
Grace and peace,
Alexa Eisenbarth and Brittney Gilleland
Alexa and Brittney are seminary students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and candidates for ministry in the United Methodist Church.