One of the things that Christianity has struggled with is how to hold with integrity- unity in diversity. With Roman Catholicism unity is powerfully enacted through the figure of the Pope and through the catholic creeds and sacraments. With Protestantism diversity is practiced, through personal interpretation and access to God and a plethora of denominations and creeds.
Yet, it seems that both full short of ‘unity in diversity’.
It is harder to enable unity in diversity than it is to practice one or the other. It is harder because it requires a creative interplay which involves risk, freedom and discipline.
Such a creative interplay of unity in diversity is revealed in the Trinity: the unity yet diversity of the Three allows creativity and difference, whilst never allowing controlling subjection of one over the other. In absolute trust and unity of will each plays its part.
At the heart of the Trinity is loving relationship, trust and fidelity.
No church can operate as the Body of Christ without these qualities – yet loving relationship, fidelity and trust are absent where either the institution or personal will is allowed to dominate. And so it is that any Christian community has to balance individual preference or interpretation and the common mind or institution.
This has been a long introduction to the worship/music life audit that we have recently conducted at St Andrew's, Rugby and the results of which are out today. The consultation reveals great unity of mind whilst also reflecting our diversity. And so it is our common task, to hold in tension unity in diversity, through the way in which we worship and praise God together. Such a common task necessarily asks each one of us to be generous and flexible. We cannot always get exactly what we want, but loving one another we share, give a little, give back in return, and enable each to flourish. We are generous in being able to see good in what another likes, rather than in putting it down, or dismissing it. But what above all is essential is that we are all invited to participate in the way that is suited to us. For it is God that invites us to participate, for Jesus is the host in this building and we are all his guests. And he invites each one of us to raise our voice in praise and thanksgiving and to offer our very selves; as Jesus is the host, so not one of us or our views is more important than the other, but all are invited to take our place around the table.
As God’s guests in this building, we must remind each other that the quality of our relationships with one another and with God are the heart beats which determine the quality of our common life. We cannot avoid those relationships and we cannot exclude any part of our community.
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came enabling the disciples to communicate with all people from all nations in their native language. God speaks to each one of us in a language we can understand and receive. And so it is that as God’s community in this place we are each called to communicate with one another in a language we can receive and understand. And that requires faithful listening, gentle speaking and constant prayer. Could you listen to a voice you have not listened to before today? Could you pledge to speak gently about what is important to you? For it is in listening and speaking gently to one another that we show that we value each other as brothers and sisters in Christ; it is in listening that we will be able to receive each other and it is in receiving each other that our community will more greatly reflect the transformational love of the Trinity. Above all, in constant prayer we offer each other the gift of the Holy Spirit. So as we receive the results of the audit, let us listen faithfully to its many voices; speak gently as we discuss it with one another and hold each other in constant prayer.