In the Spencer/Van Etten area, a group of clergy have been meeting for years to plan interdenominational services and within the past two years, to work together on shared concerns. We have held conversations on the opioid/drug/alcohol crisis, suicide, the local food pantry and heating fund, aging and much more. We also plan a Thanksgiving service and meal every year, shared Lenten services, and a summer service and picnic. What makes this so unique is that we are a group of progressive and conservative, moderate and fundamentalist, ministers, both politically and theologically: yet we have wonderful conversations and share a deep respect and affection for one another.
There have been times where our theological differences have arisen in how we approach dealing with certain topics. One instance was in talking about the addiction crisis, some pastors felt that only true healing is through God, while others wanted to include other, secular groups in the conversation. But, this was easily moved through, not by arguing about whose approach was better or the correct one, but instead by acknowledging that the different perspectives had the same core desire, to offer help and support for those affected. So, the easy solution was to ensure that we accommodated all perspectives.
We share our experience because in a time with so much division, people seem to have forgotten how to talk to one another, we are an example of how things can be different. In our ecumenical clergy group, we all agree that the way to a better world is though listening and working together. This can be done by starting where we agree. As pastors, we agree that we are to work to help our community, both our individual church communities as well as our larger community. We do not try to change the others’ minds, nor do we feel that we must think and believe the same for us to work together. As we meet and share concerns our perceptions of who the “other” changes, this does not mean that our individual core beliefs change, it means that we recognize that our differences do not define our ability to get along and because of that we can make our little piece of the world a little better.
Rev. Dr. Barb E. Blom
St. Paul’s ELCA Church, Spencer, and Interfaith Center for Action and Healing, Lansing
Delma R. West
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Pastor, Spencer Federated Church, Spencer
Spiritual director, North Van Etten Church, Van Etten
Rev. Sabrina Slater
Christ the King Fellowship Presbyterian Church, Spencer
Pastor, North Spencer Baptist Church, Spencer