St. Stephen Lutheran Church
I recently returned from an overseas trip with a group of young adults and learned a lot about what it means to be church together. The purpose of "The Plunge" trip was to learn about, experience and worship with the global church. Our group included 14 Lutheran young adults (ages 18 to 35) from southwestern Minnesota and across the country. Our travels took us to Geneva, Switzerland, and to an ecumenical monastery in Taize, France, where about 100 brothers from many different denominations and dozens of nationalities welcome thousands of young adults every week into their community.
In Geneva, we learned about how Lutherans share worship, fellowship, and service through the Lutheran World Federation as well as through the ecumenical World Council of Churches.
In Taize, we spent a week living, working, studying the Bible and worshiping three times a day with other young adult Christians from all over the world.
At the end of the trip, I asked the young adults on The Plunge what they had learned during the trip that they thought was most important for other Christians to know. Here are some of their responses: "I had no idea how much we have in common with other Christians around the world, even people from different denominations and cultures, even if we don't speak the same language." "God's church doesn't only look like your home congregation. The church isn't static; it's a living, breathing, growing community." "The church is unified. And it is also different and changing and acting." "It is possible to worship and fellowship with people who are different from you, and for everybody to be changed for the better by it."
These thoughts echoed what one of the brothers at Taize told us, too, about the brothers' commitment to living and worshiping in global ecumenical community. Where many Christians today approach worship and community with a consumer mindset that asks, "what do I get out of this?" he challenged us to think instead about what we can offer of ourselves and what we can help others to receive. "The question for us about any part of worship isn't 'does this practice belong to my tradition?' but 'does this practice help support Christians in discovering God's love for them and help them to respond?'" The community that has been created by this unique approach is one that attracts more than 100,000 young adults from around the world to spend a week or more each year living with and learning from their peers and growing together in faith.
Whatever your own faith tradition is, I hope that you find ways to express its unique gifts to the whole church and the whole world and that you also love and learn from those who have other perspectives on following Christ as disciples in the world today.