It occurred to me as I was working on an article for my congregation’s December newsletter that I could be more diligent about posting some of my non-sermon writings on here. A lot of what I write is still church-related, though not all. And I plan to start sharing more of it in the hopes that it will be meaningful for other folks to read.
All throughout the fall, the sound of drums and marching feet echoed through the streets of my hometown. We prided ourselves on being one of the best street marching bands in our class, with our straight lines and perfectly synchronized steps and crisp turns that were practically a work of art. Everyone was on the same page and knew their place. We were walking together.
Walking together is fairly easy when everyone is playing the same song and you all know the steps and what to expect. It’s easier when the lines are straight and the streets are level. But take any of those factors away, and walking together gets a whole lot trickier!
When I first moved to my site as a freshly minted Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic, I found myself bewildered and unsure what to expect. In the first place, the streets were no fit place for marching – often cracked and potholed, they meandered up the mountain and down again, branching and turning without any discernible pattern. And I didn’t know any of the songs, let alone the steps to go with them!
I struggled to feel like I was truly walking together with the people I had come to live among and serve. We came together from such different streets and had such different expectations and assumptions about what needed to be done and how we should go about it and who would do what and on what kind of a timetable.
But over time, we built up relationship and grew closer together in love, united by the common purpose of caring for the community and by our care for each other. We chose to walk together. And in so choosing, we didn’t agree to all do it my way or their way or anyone’s particular way. Everyone brought their own unique perspectives and gifts to the table.
I brought my straightforward, orderly street-marching rhythm, and was met with the joyful, forward-driving rhythms of merengue and bachata. And because we chose to put community over conformity, walking together became something more than walking; it became a kind of dancing, a lively and challenging celebration of the choice to move forward together.
This is a choice that the church has stepped up to make again and again from the earliest days of its founding. The Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul are full of the early church’s wrestling with how to walk together with its new Gentile converts from all kinds of cultural backgrounds, wondering: how would they walk? and whose songs would they sing?
In my own context of Schuyler, NE, my congregation wrestles with the reality of being a mostly white church in a mostly Hispanic community. We too are taking up the age-old challenge of figuring out how we walk together with neighbors whose language and songs and steps are often so different from the ones we know.
My hope is that we, too, will discover something that hosts of faithful church people have discovered before us: that, when we walk together with other people – especially with those who are not like us – it becomes something much more than walking. The journey itself becomes a dance.