What a weekend we had in Hays celebrating the cities 150th anniversary. After a street dance, car show and sidewalk sale on the bricks downtown, the churches of Ellis county along with the Downtown Hays Development Corporation put on a combined worship service at Municipal Park called “Praise in the Park". After the service and some greetings and salutations from elected officials, there was a picnic lunch with BBQ and birthday cake, free admission to the Hays Aquatic Park, and bounce houses for the kids. C3’s own Sara Bloom was the organizer of the event.
Thirteen churches were represented as we heard about the early history of Hays churches. It was then a joy to combined our voices in songs of praise before we prayed for our families, our churches, our community, our nation and for those who have not yet come into a faith filled relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ.
Ever since I became a believer over 30 years ago, I have been saddened by the division that denominational differences have caused within the body of Christ. I have long felt in my heart of hearts that God’s heart breaks when one church will not fellowship with another because of divergent understandings of scriptures or varied practices in worship style and content. I have always firmly held the belief that no one really should ever claim that they are a Methodist, or a Presbyterian, or a Baptist or even a Catholic shocking as that may seem. I believe that if we profess that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior then we are “Christians” who worship at a particular church of our choosing.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “that our Christlike love for each other will show the world that we are his disciples”. But when people outside of the church see jealousy and division between churches, it does not attract them, instead the reverse occurs.
I was the President of the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance when we began the joint venture with The Hays Daily News called ONE magazine. The monthly insert is intended to focus on our unity while accepting our diversity as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here is what I wrote as the Welcome in the inaugural issue of ONE in December of 2007.
“As President of ECMA this year it is my desire to encourage the churches of Ellis County to take seriously Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their 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 may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21.”
The Ellis County Ministerial Alliance’s participation in “Praise in the Park” is another example of letting the community of Hays know, like the camp song many of us used to sing, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they know we are Christians by our love”.
We are better together,
Your pastor and partner in ministry,