Your Missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:
(Wrote this yesterday but was late posting. 24 hours hasn’t changed much—so here it is.)
I’m back in an airline terminal awaiting my flight home after a fabulous three days with my long-time extended family at the equally fabulous Christian Assembly in Columbus, Ohio. Pastors Torry and Marlyn Gligora warmly received me, as did Pastor Paulette Farina. Paulette’s late husband, Pastor Sam Farina, went home to the Lord six months ago. He had pastored this extraordinary church for 41 years and left a towering legacy. This was a bittersweet reunion for me because it was my first return visit since Sam’s death.
Pastoral transitions are always difficult times for churches, but Christian Assembly is virtually unique. Pastor Torry was Sam’s close associate, confidant and friend of 33 years—remarkable by any standard. It’s made the transition of leadership much smoother. Still, while Pastor Paulette has for years exercised a stunningly successful ministry in her own right, especially in music and arts, she was still one with her husband. It’s a hard time for her to go it alone and she asked for your prayers.
Every visit I make to Christian Assembly, Columbus, is special and yields up delightful surprises but I saw something this time I hadn’t seen before. It was right in the front row—vivid and beautiful. It was four couples, two with their little children beside them. All four were interracial couples. What made this so unusual is that nothing is ever said about it. It simply doesn’t command special attention; it’s just part of the everyday life of this extraordinarily diverse congregation. Black, White and Asian not only easily and comfortably mix with each other, they actually blend with each other.
This is the ideal of the colorblind church. It’s the realization of Martin Luther King’s dream. More importantly, it’s the realization of the promise inherent in the Gospel: The creation of a new people, a new community—dare I say a new race. It is the formation of the People of God among whom there is no Jew or Greek. (See Galatians 3:28) Even the most cursory read of history will bear out the animosity between Jews and Gentiles in the ancient near east. The Day of Pentecost erased those institutional differences. There would be no “preferred” ethnicity. All those in Christ would be one.
Considering humankind has been vexed for so long by the enormous tensions between races, tribes and nationalities, the Gospel offers a tremendous gift! Imagine a world where race was invisible. Such a world would be free of a huge class of human conflicts. To get a glimpse of it, visit Christian Assembly. While some churches lecture on race, brag about what they intend to do about racial divides or rant and rave about how incurable racism is, the people of Christian Assembly just live out their lives free of race consciousness. They are brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of color or ethnic origin—and their sincerity jumps out from the first row!
God bless the beautiful and loving body of believers at Christian Assembly. As much as anything else, it stands as a testament to the man who knew no boundaries to Christ-like love, Sam Farina.
Thank you, Christian Assembly, for allowing me to be part of your blended community!
Your grateful missionary to elected and appointed officials,
Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002