A common joke at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is to begin the first show back from a scheduled hiatus with the idea that it was so fortunate that the show chose to take some time off when it was otherwise quiet. Then a video montage of the various world and national controversies and crises plays out. The camera returns to Jon Stewart who looks chastened, and he admits that he was misinformed.
As I look back at the summer, it has been a time of unrest. A lot of geo-political conflict, along with global health scares and pandemics, partisan gridlock in the usual places of high power, and any number of trivial conflicts stirred up by the "molehills into mountains" headlines created by 24 hour news cycles in search of ratings and attention.
In the midst of the fray and fracas, I note the gathering earlier this summer of Baptists from around the world that took place in Izmir, Turkey. While some voiced concerns about such a gathering taking place, all accounts point toward a peaceable meeting as Baptists met up with their Turkish counterparts, who were supported and encouraged by the Baptist World Alliance choosing to come to a country where fewer Baptists or Christians in general are to be found.
The BWA General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Neville Callam, shares a helpful reflection on the reasons the Baptist World Alliance serves as a symbol of Christian Unity as well as among Baptists, a global faith body known to insiders and outsiders alike as a sometimes contentious bunch, especially in crowd settings.
In his article, Callam celebrates how the BWA "cultivates selflessness" through its worship and the organization's value in honoring the multiple languages spoken among its attendees. I encourage you to read his article via: http://www.bwanet.org/component/easyblog/entry/cultivating-selflessness-in-worship-in-global-gatherings?Itemid=103
The 2014 Biennial of the American Baptist Churches of New York State endeavors to carry out some of this same sensitivity in its planning. The worship services will feature hymns offered in English and Karen, just two of the languages common to American Baptists worshipping in upstate New York churches. Music will be offered by African American and Chin church choirs, a contemporary worship band and along with the fine organ at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Utica.
As part of the Biennial planning committee, I know it's been a new level of effort and complexity for the committee members to navigate the need to synchronize hymns reflected in the two hymnals used at Tabernacle (one in English and one in Karen). It's been a process of listening carefully to the various needs and sensitivities of our divergent cultures and languages. Yet, as Neville Callum suggest, worship among many peoples, cultures and languages is a chance to "cultivate selflessness" in ensuring that we remember our greater cause is not our own culture or personal comfort. It's about praising God in a variety of languages, different and diverse yet made One in Christ.