This Sunday I went to the fiftieth anniversary of the church where my parents met and married. Three generations--me, my parents, my grandparents--got to celebrate this together. My mom pointed out the stained-glass she always loved, my dad reminisced with a high school buddy about their "crazy" times, my grandparents introduced me to old Sunday school companions. Fifty years is a long time to be a church, particularly the same congregation meeting in the same place. A woman just bequeathed 1 million dollars to the church and they used it to build some much needed expansions. She had never been to the church, but the pastor visited her in the hospital everyday, and it touched her so much she wanted to give back.
What struck me most about this community was its diversity. About 15 years ago the church leaders decided that in the course of the following years they needed to hire a female, African American, and Hispanic minister in order to follow the teachings of Christ about inclusion. They've completed the first two tasks, and its evident. I sat next to an elderly African American woman who knew all the hymns by heart and stood for everyone, even though she had to use a cane to get up. Kids ran around together, it being perfectly normal to be around people of such different ages and races.
Sometimes it pays to be intentional. Sometimes we have to conciously seek diversity. This church would probably still have only white congregants if not for their decisions. I truly believe that Christ is inclusive and that God desires us to live in harmony with one another. Tolerance is one thing, but loving and living with people who are completely different than me is a totally different story. But the results... incomparable.