The Embracing Circle of Community

M y son Daniel asks me when he will have a bar mitzvah like our friend’s son. The Baptist neighbor’s daughter asks when she will get her First Communion (and the family celebration that follows it). A student at the university shares with the class that he was never baptized, and the class, representing many different Christian churches, has a myriad of responses about the rite and role of baptism. A young woman of color introduces herself as a pentecostal woman being raised up as a prophetess to a graduate class in sacraments at a Catholic university. Messages flash across my computer screen from different peace groups--Catholics working on the peace tax fund, Mennonites working on conscientious objection--as part of an online peace studies network through Pax Christi USA.

Perhaps not all the questions of this "new ecumenism" are new, but the responses of both individuals and institutions are. The transition is not only from vertical to horizontal patterns of relationship among us, but from linear to circular as well. From "who was here first" and "who owns the history" in a model of scarcity and competition (as if there isn’t enough grace to go around), to the charism of "roundness"--the embracing circle of community that Jesus left as legacy, acknowledging the giftedness of difference within the Christian community. Within the Catholic community, I think there are many factors working toward this roundness, and I feel great hope in what seems to be evolving.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1997
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