Post Author: Katie Lloyd
I’ve almost finished my first year as senior pastor at a church that is unlike any other I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. Our vision statement is “To be a house of prayer for all nations,” and while we may not have all nations yet, together we worship in Burmese, English, French, Spanish, and Swahili. It is beautiful and energizing. When I first arrived church members told me, “In heaven, people are going to be from all over the world and praising God in different languages. We might as well start practicing now.”
I don’t want to romanticize my church, of course: please remember that it is a church, which means it is made up of people, which means that life lived out together in faith can be messy. There are still disagreements and misunderstandings, and now we can have misunderstandings across languages and cultures as well. We are not a church of one single political or theological viewpoint.
We are made up of refugees and immigrants as well as people who’ve lived their whole lives in Kentucky. We live into the tension of having people hug and greet one another on Sunday and post articles about “building the wall” on Monday. And for those church members, they experience no contradiction in that. They see their political beliefs around immigration as separate from the love they show to the people right in front of them.
I believe we are able to be one church because of, not in spite of, all of our differences. Many churches assume homogeneity and then are surprised by the people who act or believe differently. At my church we assume that God has called us all together in this time and place because of our differences. Our goal as a church is to truly be one body – not just an English speaking church that hosts other language groups.
We work hard to have our staff, leadership teams, and meetings reflect the diversity of our church. We make decisions together for the whole. To help us visualize and pray that we truly might be one church, pastors before me started the tradition of ending each service with the congregation holding hands and singing “Bind us together Lord.”
Bind us together Lord
Bind us together with cords
That cannot be broken
Bind us together Lord
Bind us together
Bind us together with love
There is only one God
There is only one King
There is only one body
That is why we can sing (Chorus)
The first time I was a part of the singing benediction I cried. And I still look forward to it each week. Though when I sing it as a prayer, I wish to expand upon it as well.
Bind us together in patience. When we do not understand one another. When our sense of time does not get all of us to church in the same moment. When there are more people who wish to come to church than can fit in one round of van trips and people must wait.
Bind us together in understanding. When the ways we pray and worship are different. When people suggest that it would be easier to do church separately than together. When our ways of raising and caring for children are remarkably different. When everyone is stepping outside of their comfort zones for the good of the whole Body.
Bind us together in good humor. When we forget which language we’re speaking in to which group. When the joke does not translate. When the children run down the halls with joy. When we find we are all laughing at the same thing at the same time in many languages.
Bind us together in grace and forgiveness. When I continue to learn all the things I do not know as their pastor. When we make assumptions. When we do things how we want them done. When anyone feels like they are a less important part of the Body.
Bind us together in love. When we worship together and don’t need to know all the words to feel the movement of the Spirit. When our children and youth only know what it looks like to go to church with all ages, races, languages, and styles. When we, through the grace of God, do our best to love our brothers and sisters in Christ across language divides. When we hold hands with one another and sing and pray that we might truly be the Body of Christ.
Katie Lloyd is the Senior Pastor at Buechel UMC in Louisville, Kentucky. Katie is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. In her free time she enjoys hiking and running with her husband and playing with their muppet-looking dog Wendell.
Image by: Cheryl Marie Photography
Used with permission