Recently my wife and I have been attending St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in the valley of Syracuse. They are part of the Anglican Missions in the Americas and are currently the only representing church from AMiA in the Syracuse region. Father Bob Hackendorf, the pastor of the church, has asked me to teach their adult Sunday School, which has been a great and humbling experience. This has also resulted in us being there more often, which is been unbelievably great and is the reason for this post.
St. Andrew’s is a small congregation that rents a small space in a small stripmall. By all accounts, most Western church people would write them off as an impotent, tiny congregation and thus must be doing something wrong or irrelevant because of their small stature. This could not be further from the truth. I honestly don’t think I have been in a more vibrant, alive community in, dare I say, the majority of my life. And I think their secret is their unity in their diversity.
The community is comprised of a mishmash of ages, socio-economic statuses, and ethnic backgrounds among other diversifying categories. People from all walks of life are united together in the worship of Jesus. It is their love for God that drives them to see past their cultural differences and to see each other as family. Hugs, kisses, and warm greetings flow to and from each other as signs of what God has done for them. The barriers the world holds up in regards to their differences melt away in the warmth of Jesus’ love.
It is inspiring and moving to see the wealthy family hug the ones who have very little. The teenage girl with different color hair is welcomed with open arms by the grandmotherly women there. The Indian priest encourages the teenage boy suffering from physical disabilities. Children and adults alike partake of the Eucharist demonstrating the reality that all are welcome in the Church; younger ones don’t have to wait to be actively participating.
It has been said that the church is a signpost directing people towards the future: the people of God themselves are the future of humanity to be seen in the present. This is most evident in the interaction and sharing of life by those who if they were outside of Christ’s family would probably pass by each other. Thankfully, the walls have been broken and peace grabs these people by the hand and says, “Love each other as you have been loved.”
They do and it has made all the difference.