As Women of the Way, we seek unity in the Body of Christ as we focus on Who unites us rather than what divides us.
We are One Body with many parts. We are One Church with many voices.
Join me in welcoming Dawn Hawkins as she shares her voice on unity!
An Amazing Work of God
I love the mission of Women of the Way. To bring together Christian women from different backgrounds to express their love for God, each other, and our neighbors is a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God we Christians are called to help create. The diversity and evolution of the Church across the world and time is an amazing work of God. Over 2.5 billion imperfect people around the world today identify as Christian, so the call to both unity in Christ and diversity in membership is an enormous challenge.
Our Church Adventure
During my own faith journey, I’ve attended several different denominations, and I have found the differences in theology and worship styles so intriguing that I wanted to learn more about the richness of the Christian Church. About two years ago my husband and I were able to begin what we called our “Church Adventure.” Every week we would go to a different church to get a taste of what God was doing in what Paul called “The Body of Christ.”
Here are some key points I learned about my fellow Christians along the way:
We are on a mission to love the world.
One of my favorite parts about our Church Adventure was hearing and seeing how other church communities show the love of Jesus to the world. One of the reasons I am a Christian is that Jesus offers us Grace. I will never fully understand the magnitude of His grace this side of Heaven but I’ve been blessed to see some of how grace seeps into this world and mends the broken places. I was fortunate to see new ways in which God uses His Church to convey His Grace to a hurting world.
Love in Tangible Ways
Whether it was to provide fellowship, a listening ear, food and clothing, housing, school supplies, community relief, divorce or grief care, counseling, medical services, foster care services, or Vacation Bible School, every church had some way to show God’s love in tangible ways both locally and abroad. Church buildings were offered to the community as places to come together to worship, celebrate, get married, mourn, vote, learn, confess, make covenants and promises, address addictions, appreciate music and art, receive counseling and much more. It was wonderful to see the salt and light the Church can bring.
Our different perspectives are celebrations of God’s richness.
I love variety, and our visits showed me God does too. In a Mennonite Amish church, I was taken by the simplicity, kindness, and quiet peace of the congregation. In visiting African-American churches, I appreciated not only their energy and passion, but also saw a deep love and forgiveness that spoke of facing injustice and adversity while also resisting malice and bitterness. In the Siberian Orthodox Church, the service was infused with incense, bells, beautiful gold filigree art, and chanting that filled the church, and I appreciated the rich history and multi-sensory experience.
The Messianic Christian Church had amazing flute and violin music with a Jewish flare. When the Bible was read, they danced around the church with the Torah and would unexpectedly and enthusiastically blow the shofar horn. When the tithe was collected, they cheered because it was such a blessing to give their money to advance God’s Kingdom. It all showed a love for God and His word unlike anything I’d experienced before. In more traditional liturgical churches we sang old hymns like “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” to organ music and in contemporary churches we sang modern Christian music to guitar and drums.
In country churches we sang “When the Saints Go Marching In” and gospel bluegrass in four-part harmony. I heard a few of the world’s most prominent theologians give incredibly scholarly talks, and I heard country preachers give excited and breathless ones. I saw churches where most congregants showed up dressing up like the Bride of Christ, and others where folks came “just as I am,” and the analogy of Christians as ragamuffins came to mind.
The church is an amazing mix of fancy and down-to-earth, talkative and quiet, fun and serious, and traditional and modern. And God has done what he always intended – he has called us all to be His.
We are united by the love of Jesus.
During each of our visits we experienced Jesus’s love and a desire for those in attendance to learn about and love Jesus more deeply. It is this love that holds the Church together. Even with our many differences, there were significant similarities across individual churches. Given the various divisions over time, the similarities were quite astounding, and quite comforting. It’s almost universal that the Bible is read, a sermon is preached, prayers are offered, the body and blood of Christ received, baptism is given, and songs are sung.
Evidence of God’s Character
Both the familiar practices and the less common ones all in some way offered me glimpses into an aspect of God’s character. Foot-washing showed me Christ’s willingness to serve and get His hands dirty. Infant baptism showed me His grace is nothing I deserve, while immersive adult baptism showed me He expects my commitment and a new birth. The celebration of Passover reminded me God continues to rescue us from the slavery of sin. Saying the creeds reminded me of the continuity of God’s people across space and time. They all were part of the way the Church continues to point to Jesus and tell the whole world about the grace and mercy, purpose and rest, He offers to all.
Diversity as a Cause to Celebrate!
Through it all, I learned we can be diverse in our worship styles, dress, music, personalities, and culture, but be one in our love for Jesus and humanity. I thank God for being able to be part of the “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” We loved our church adventure and plan on continuing to visit and expand our view of how God uses His Church to love the whole world. It can be tempting to see our diversity as a sign we are fractured, but seeing the diversity a bit more closely has caused me to celebrate that, as First Peter 4:10 says, God’s grace comes to us in many forms.
Dawn Hawkins grew up in the small city of Frankenmuth, Michigan and is grateful for her German Lutheran heritage. She moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1990 and currently attends First Baptist Church in Huntsville. Dawn is married to her best friend, passionately organized, a lifelong learner, and loves to hike and travel to new places. She has worked in the engineering profession for over 30 years. She has been blessed to be a mother to three sons, two stepdaughters, one grandson, and numerous foster children. She continues to rely on God’s grace and forgiveness as she seeks to live as a follower of Christ.