I first read all the way through the We Share document while sitting in Uthamapalayam, India, trying desperately to find some material to bridge the cultural economic, and even religious differences that made it difficult to share with my Indian brothers and sisters. Striving to share authentically was a beautiful challenge, but also an important one. I couldn’t rely on common North American Community of Christ lingo such as experiences in the camping programs. I tried that once and spent about ten minutes with translation just trying to explain what a campfire was! A cynicism was swelling within me toward the middle of my summer. As I shared in different villages and witnessed a variety of economic circumstances, I knew that my passions for theology were falling on ears that cared little about the intricacies of religious language. They just wanted a faith that was real; that would put food on their tables and hope in their lives.
There were moments when I wondered if there was really anything that we actually shared from a theological Christian perspective. In some moments this was frustrating, and in other moments it was liberating. Church leaders in India have been learning about the Enduring Principles, church history, our identity, message and mission. They are having a difficult time, though, really establishing a Community of Christ identity in the villages where people have low levels of education and are struggling to get by on a daily basis. Nevertheless, these are our church members in India; the children who have to meet outside because they are lower caste, the women who came to church struggling with domestic abuse and poverty, those with a hope in their eyes and hearts, believing that somehow their faith might bring them what they need.
So, what do I think about the We Share document? It is a beautiful vision, but not quite the reality in most North American congregations that I have attended. And it is a distant dream for congregation I shared with in India. There are movements within Community of Christ of people that care about peace and justice issues, the worth of persons, the depths of generosity, and making responsible choices for a better world. There are also congregations who might pick up this document, maybe even have workshop on it, and then go back to the way things have always been.
Please, please, please church! Please don’t discard this vision. There are challenges within this document to make our faith something REAL – something that puts food on tables and hope in hands. I can’t think of anything more important as we proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love and peace; to actually be who we say we are.
My name is Katie Harmon-McLaughlin and I am a Graduate Intern at Graceland University. I work with my husband, Zac, to assist our campus ministers in programs, services, administrative work, and support for our campus ministries team. I am also in Community of Christ Seminary as part of my position.