I must confess, I became somewhat concerned earlier this summer when I learned our Church was considering a name change. In my pursuit of God, I have experienced change and often saw it as the foreboding of something else to come. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
There are mainstream denominations, the churches we see daily on our drives about town and then there are those that tend to be more obscure. As with most things we do not understand, we tend to be skeptical and cautious of them. To provide an example, driving to my sister’s home in rural Pennsylvania I register no emotion at all when I pass a Presbyterian church or Lutheran. But I do look with wonder when I pass an Amish buggy, clopping along slowly on the shoulder of the road. Inquisitive, I have come to somewhat understand Amish beliefs and traditions. My sister even graduated a Mennonite university for her Masters in Nursing degree. I will admit however, being absolutely confused when I learned of another sect within the Amish known as Hutterites. This is all very bewildering.
Then I reflected on my own situation. Baptized Methodist, my spiritual journey took me from Roman Catholic to Anglican to Evangelical Anglican to Anglican Catholic to Reformed Catholic to Old Catholic. At each pause along the way friends looked at me perplexed as I sought to explain the difference in my latest transformation. Now at long last, confident that my spiritual journey to God is at an end, I found myself selfishly anxious that I would need to do some explaining yet again; especially to closest friends and family who are all Roman Catholic. Recalling the basic history and foundation of Old Catholics, Roman Catholics usually see us as a break away child who will one day return to their senses, and “the church”. Though even the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church as addressed at the Second Vatican Council states; “Those who believe in Christ and have been baptized are put in certain, though somewhat imperfect, communion with the Church.” (Catechism 838)
As I pondered consideration of how changing the name of my church would actually affect me, several concepts danced about my thoughts. In hindsight, which is always “twenty-twenty”, perhaps they even danced to music that God was playing to help me come to terms.
The first music to overwhelm me was George Gershwin’s 1937 hit song by Fred Astaire, “Lets Call the Whole Thing Off”. You know… toe-MAY-toe, toe-MAH-toe, poe-TAY-toe, poe-TAH-toe, EEE-ther, EYE-ther… lets call the whole thing off! Then as if this wasn’t strange enough, here comes William Shakespeare quoting to me, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”
Names and labels, I thought- whats in a name. We have first names and last names. Some of us even have middle names, and then there are those of us who explain to some friends what our “confirmation names” are. This all seemed childish to me, though still disconcerting. Why, did my Church have to change it’s name? I prayed to understand and to prevent that other shoe from dropping. Then God seemed to whisper an answer, put the composers’ and classics away and refer to Scripture for my answer.
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her… “you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31) “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Most importantly we are told by Peter in Acts, that disciples and followers of Christ came to be known as Christians. (Acts 11:26)
Bottom line then, wasn’t this the answer I was looking for all along? I am a follower of Christ, I am a Christian. Old Catholic, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran- even Amish, we are Christians. Together we follow Christ, and in God’s house “there are many rooms” (John 14:2) “but no one comes to the Father, but through [Christ] (John 14:6).
Jesus Christ himself seemed to understand this, and prayed: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through this message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world my believe that you have sent me. I have given them glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one- I in them and you in me- so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:21-23)
“Gracious Father, you sent you Son Jesus Christ to proclaim to all the Good News of your Kingdom, and through him you have inspired individuals to sow the seeds of your Church, guide us as we continue this work. Show to us the next field that is to be planted, and give to us the gifts to accomplish your will. Help us to understand the longings of the heart and the sufferings of your children. Enable us to feed them and refresh them. Give to us Gracious Father, your Church- your blessing and your grace, that Thy will be done. Amen.” (BOS 224)