jeff-eric“They said it couldn’t be done, Christian Valley, but I preached a 10-minute sermon!”

Those were the exuberant words of Pastor Eric Seldon, who is the minister of Christian Valley Church in Cataula, who preached at both services at St. Nicholas on Sunday. While he was talking about his sermon length, I couldn’t help but think that there was much more that happened on Sunday that “they said couldn’t be done.”

I have written before about our relationship with Christian Valley and how we are seeking to create a bond of friendship between two very different congregations. One is predominantly African-American, one is predominantly Caucasian. One worships formally and traditionally, one worships with a much more contemporary spin. One has a preacher that preaches 10 to 15 minutes long, one has a preacher that preaches 30-45 minutes long.

As Pastor Eric mentioned in his sermon, in the South, Sunday mornings are the most segregated hours of the week. Yet, we have been called to take the “road less traveled” and join together on occasion to begin a process of relationship of understanding. One might worry that we’re trying to assimilate their church or that they are trying to assimilate ours. But that’s not the intention. It’s to engage fully in mission with one another. Mission, at it’s core, means engaging in relationship with one another. Christian Valley has a gift to give St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas has a gift to give Christian Valley. Despite our cultural, ecclesial, or liturgical differences, we lift those differences up and share them with one another to learn, and grow, and love one another. Who else is doing that in Harris County?

I said in both services yesterday that the Kingdom of God was indeed present. We all recited the Nicene Creed, as varied Christians throughout history have done before as a way to unite us in common worship. I looked out and saw the beauty of diversity in the faces of God’s created people! At the 8:30 service, we had 64 attendees, most of whom were Christian Valley members who came early, and then went to worship at their own 10 o’clock service. At 11:00, we had 97 people packed into the pews! It was a sight to behold!

Deacon Terrance Blue from Christian Valley led the Inspirational Choir in two songs at the two services, Souled Out and God Is. At the 11:00 service, everyone was on their feet clapping, dancing, and singing. If you wonder what eternity might be like, it might look a bit like that.

The number of e-mails and comments about our services have been overwhelmingly positive. As one St. Nicholas member said, “I thought to myself, this is the way the world can put aside bigotry and hatred…I have always been proud to be Episcopalian, but this morning went beyond mere pride to show me the way the world could ‘live as one.'”

I am supremely thankful to Pastor Eric, Garvin Gourie, and the rest of Christian Valley who made the day possible. I am overwhelmingly proud of the people of St. Nicholas, who welcomed new friends with open arms. Pastor Eric said how warm everyone felt there with us.

So it was a step in the right direction. I have never been more sure of that. I don’t know what God has in store for St. Nicholas & Christian Valley, but if it’s anything like yesterday’s worship, then the Kingdom of God is truly at hand.

My only disappointment in the day was that we didn’t get any pictures! Our regular photographer, Lynn Hall, was in bed with the flu, bless her heart, and I forgot to get someone else to take pictures! So even though the day wasn’t captured on camera, it certainly was graphed into the hearts and minds of all who were present.

They said it couldn’t be done…