It was about 10 at night late in the summer – the final session of camp. We had just sung to all the campers who were pretending to be asleep and gathered around the flagpole in a circle of people who were so completely mismatched but had shared one experience. And we sang. It felt like a moment that should have a sappy song in the background of it as it showed the ending of a Disney movie, but we enjoyed our moment together. Many, many choruses of ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ kept us amused as our boss tried to shush us so the
campers could sleep. We sang. We laughed. Campers listened in on our moment together. It was the end of something.
I tell you that story for a few reasons. One is that it was a moment that I loved, and another is that I think it shows the power of a shared experience.
There were a few people at that camp that I spent more time with than others. One was the Angry Frenchman, who was shorter than me and yet could pick me up, put me over his shoulder and carry me. Another was a super tall Jamacian who taught campers the ‘Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!’ chant in his accent and made me giggle. Another was an American with the coolest last name ever who I went to a concert with at night and then spent the next morning eating bacon and watching movies.
Our backgrounds and ages were all totally different, and yet we all shared that one experience of summer and there are moments I look back on a laugh every time. There are moments where we all laughed together and other nights when we were sad or angry and sat silently, wondering how we were going to go back to the cabin of campers.
I think church should be like this. I think youth group should be like this. In Acts, the gathering was huge at Pentecost, and I doubt that they all had the exact same life experience. I think they all came from different places, different stages, different beliefs, and they all shared this one moment that bound them together. At church we have this huge blessing of people who have lived long lives and learnt lessons that the rest of us have no comprehension of yet, there are those who have spent their life feeling close to God and that intimacy is something we can observe and learn from, there are those with heartbreaking stories through which God has shown grace. And so many more people walk through the doors of those buildings we call ‘churches’ every Sunday and yet, they are kept separate from each other.
At 6pm on a Sunday, I want to be in a room with my brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing an encounter with the God who dragged us all together in spite of our differences because he has a purpose for the diversity. All people are his people. And if we spoke our creeds as enthusiastically as Rudi did ‘Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!’, that would be amazing – but that’s a whole other entry for you.