Today my lectionary group is trying something new. We've invited the conservative pastors on the South End to lunch at a local restaurant, in hopes of finding common ground to stand on, so that we can work together to address some of the human needs on the island: homelessness, poverty, unemployment--all the things that every community needs to face.
I can't predict how it will turn out but I'm hopeful. I'm also realistic. One of the pastors, a volunteer chaplain at the hospital, was asked (when I was getting ready to start volunteering myself) by the coordinator to show me around and teach me the ropes of informal chaplaincy. He turned down the request because I'm not the right kind of Christian, i.e., someone who believes that Jesus was God.
The coordinator was a little abashed at telling me the news but I read his mind, when he said that he'd been turned down. "Is it because of our different theology?" I asked. He said yes and I theorized that it was because of our differing Christology (though I didn't use that word). He acknowledged that was the case.
I was frustrated but not surprised. The implication seemed to be that somehow meeting with me would be a betrayal of his belief system, that he would endanger his soul by helping me learn the hospital's chaplaincy procedures, that his congregation would disapprove.
So I hope for today's luncheon and I wonder if this pastor will show up. I wonder what I might say to allay the fears. I wonder if my colleagues in the lectionary group understand the depth of antipathy that one "Christian" has for another.
I'll let you know how it goes.