Friday, May 27, 2011
Peacefully. Simply. Together: Thanking the Church of The Brethren
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- My seventeen-year-old son, Isaiah, graduates from high school this year. As he prepares for college, he is looking at what his major may be in school, and ultimately, what profession and vocation he will pursue in his life.
Recently, he has taken a liking to philosophy, having a good professor (in a dual enrollment class he took at a local college) with a Christian moral base. From this class, he began to think critically about many topics: the death penalty, abortion, peace, war, knowledge, the environment, truth, and the like.
All in all, the topics he is beginning to think through are very important for all people, not just students entering college.
I sort of remember that some 25 years ago was the time I began thinking through these topics on a serious level. To add further intrigue to my intellectual quest, I was also trying to find where I belonged within the body of Christ. Put simply, I was searching for a church home.
I was dedicated as a child in a Methodist Church. In elementary school, I was brought up Presbyterian. And then in high school, I went with a friend to a non-denominational church: a Calvary Chapel spin-off.
By the time I entered college, I, like my son, was thinking through the big issues of life, and wanted to find a church home that resonated with my beliefs at the time.
It was during my early college years that I began to work for a church-run homeless shelter, named Tri-City Homeless Shelter of the Bay Area. We met in various churches, feeding and housing the homeless.
It was here that I came into contact with some folks that, when they spoke, really resonated with me. They talked of peace and justice, but more importantly, of following Jesus Christ in a serious way.
These “folks” turned out to be members of The Church of the Brethren, one of the historic peace churches (along with Mennonite, Amish, and Quaker).
I didn’t know about the history of the Brethren at the time. I was more drawn to the people representing Christ at the homeless shelter -- in the real world of the Bay Area of California. They were walking the talk.
These Brethren folks eventually invited me to church. When I went to the service, meeting at the YMCA in Fremont, California, Pastor Jeff Neuman-Lee was teaching through the book of Genesis in an engaging and thoughtful way. I was hooked. Jeff and I became fast friends, enjoying music, marching in peace walks, talking of life and what it meant to follow Jesus. It was a great time.
For the next seven years I dedicated my life to serving Christ within the Church of the Brethren, eventually being licensed in ministry at the Empire Church of the Brethren in the central valley of California. Today, we are still “members.”
It wasn’t until I entered into the profession of education, which led me to different schools and towns that my contact with the Brethren began to fade.
Yet twenty years later, I find myself turning to the Church of Brethren to talk with my son about topics near and dear to him.
Like my son at his age, I was also intrigued to sit through various sessions at the Brethren Annual Conference, discussing a multitude of issues at hand, all helping to shape my ideals as a college student.
With this jolt of remembrance, I decided to look up the Church of the Brethren website to give him some various perspectives. It was there I found a quote that we both found thought provoking: “When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ I think He probably meant, don’t kill them.” It may be an over-simplistic view, but we both liked it.
I’m very appreciative of the body of Christ in all its varieties. God is obviously a Creator of choice and diversity. He allowed many strains and movements within His body -- all for the sole purpose of serving Him and proclaiming His name.
The Church of the Brethren is one such group. Maybe they are the hands of Christ’s body. Maybe they are the radical conscience. I don’t know; I probably never will until I enter His kingdom once and for all.
What I do know is that I am thankful for their compassionate witness and helping a young man find his voice within the body of Christ.
And like the Brethren’s motto of “Peacefully, Simply, Together” states, all followers of Jesus are in Him with one accord, simply following where He leads, seeking His peace for the world and ourselves. I can’t think of a better description of the Christian life.
Thank you, Church of the Brethren, for being faithful to your Christian witness by helping a fellow sojourner find what it means to truly follow Jesus. And just as importantly—helping a father discuss life with his son.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.