By Pastor Pam Seebach
Harmony, Mabel, and Newburg United Methodist Churches
I remember as a child being intrigued by the many ‘‘other’’ churches in our town. I was raised in the United Methodist Church and am still a United Methodist today. But I wondered why there were so many different churches – what’s that about? What goes on in a Catholic Church, I wondered? How is a Lutheran Church different from our church? One day I was invited to attend a concert in a Lutheran Church, and I was as excited as if I had been invited to go to a foreign country! Imagine my surprise when the inside of the church was not so very different from the one I attended – they even spoke English there!
The religious scene in my hometown had what I called the basics: United Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, and Baptist. Eventually I moved away and lived in a city where there was a plethora of worshiping opportunities – well beyond the basics of my limited experience! It was wonderful – such diversity! As I began to read more about the various religions, I noticed something wonderful: there are more similarities than differences! For example, God is present and occupies Top Billing in nearly all the religions. Plus, each religion has its own Holy Book which tells the story of God and God’s interaction with the world. As John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) For another example of similarity in the diversity, each religion has a way of worshiping God – showing respect and honor to the Creator. “What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.” (John 1:3b-4)
The most wonderful thing I learned as I expanded my ‘‘investigation’’ into the Wonderful World of Worship is that each religion gives its people hope. HOPE. We all need it! God wants to give us hope, and God makes it happen in a delightful variety of ways. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” (John 1:5) There has been a lot of talk among United Methodists in the past few years about whether congregations want to remain part of the worldwide United Methodist Church. Some people don’t want to, others do. Similarly, there are new houses of worship springing up, new non-denominational churches opening their doors to welcome people in. Some people find these changes threatening, as their own church’s worship attendance dwindles. I say, “God’s got this.” God wants to give us hope (yes, I’m repeating myself – for good reason!) and God will find a way. We find hope in the light – whether that light is in the Torah, in Muhammad, in Jesus Christ, or in another aspect of God’s creation. God’s got this! The next time you pass a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or other place of worship, step inside – I pray you’ll find, like I did, that it feels like home. (All the scriptures I cited are from the Common English Bible.)