By Rev. Kara Markell
There’s a not-so-old church song that says:
I am the church, you are the church
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus, all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!
I believe it. And most of the time, luckily, I feel it. But right now I’m not feelin’ it. I’ve been in conversation with many other clergy in my region, who, like me, will not be at the table when our church gathers nationally in a few months. It’s not because I don’t want to go. It’s because it has become financially impossible for me to do so. And I don’t mean that I couldn’t raise the money if I wanted to. I serve a financially stable church in the suburbs. We’d probably be able to scrape the money together. But what about my colleague who serves in another setting who doesn’t have the means of gathering those funds? Are we really going to force our Youth to do one more fundraiser so they can be represented at the table?
The truth is, I kind of don’t want to go. Mostly, because it’s not a good use of my, or my congregation’s resources. It’s too expensive. I can’t justify staying in a fancy hotel for a week, paying airfare and meals, sitting in the air conditioning, listening to famous speakers, while I know that the table is incomplete, while I know that money could have provided food for several families during spring break. And even more, I don’t want to participate in excluding. Only some voices will be at the table. Only some people will “be the church” at the assembly. And this, to me, is unacceptable.
I suppose in some ways, it’s impossible, or at least improbable, to get every voice around the table. But that’s the goal, isn’t it? And I pray that those who gather as a general church acknowledge who is not there. Like Paul reminds us, “The eye can’t say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you,” because “we are the church together.” But, I think we’re saying it, without saying it. In a year when a major resolution about inclusion is coming to a vote, will the voices of those we want included be there for discussion and prayer and voting? I don’t know. And if they’re not, we need to be honest about why that is the case and start a conversation about how, in the future, we can ensure that every part of the body of Christ is represented; how they are a part of the conversation and decision-making in our church.
I am the church. You are the church. We are the church. Together.