For me, this Fathers’ Day was an illustration of the intensity of contemporary cross cultural experience. Yesterday morning I led Beneficent Church’s annual Abbott Park worship. Abbott Park is located right next to the meetinghouse and belongs to Beneficent Church. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. We had 80 people in worship–African Americans, Chinese, Hondurans, homeless, European Americans, Native Americans, university professors, small business owners, older folks from Beneficent Church’s apartment building next door, parents, and young children, gay, straight, transgenedered people–to name some of the people groups represented.

This was also Pride weekend in Providence. Beneficent Church is Open and Affirming. The church is a water stop for Providence’s annual Pride Parade. We also marched in the parade. We also hosted the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, who performed at Beneficent Church Friday night.

Sunday morning, I preached on the story of the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God, who spoke to Elijah out of “sheer silence” on Mount Sinai. I spoke about spiritual tenacity–about how God didn’t give up on Elijah when Elijah felt like giving up on God. I spoke about my experience of discovering as an adult that my dad was gay, about my father’s spiritual tenacity, and about God’s faithfulness to my family.

I felt the difficulty of trying to communicate a Bible story that represents a cultural context so different from the 21st century American city–for instance, the fact that the Biblical prophet Elijah was engaged in spiritual war on behalf of God against the prophets of the Canaanite god, Baal and that Elijah actually had Baal’s prophets killed. This sort of thing makes people who live in the land of the champion of religious liberty, Roger Williams, uneasy.

I felt the difficulty of trying to communicate out of my own family experience to a faith community that represents such a diversity of families and cultures.

How does a faith community build a strong, vibrant, faithful faith identity in the face of such diversity? As one of our deacons likes to say, “Not without a lot of work, some struggle, and a few tears.” And, I might add, not without Jesus. The good news is that God continues to work in our lives and in the lives of those around us, preparing our hearts to encounter God in life-giving, life-changing ways. With God’s help we are reaching across cultures, celebrating differences, and building understanding. With God’s grace, our fractured, postmodern lives are made whole.

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