A sign can convey a lot about a congregation. But for two Sundays in June, the church signs of more than 30 churches in Holland and Zeeland, Mich., showed no name and no denominational identification. Instead they were covered in burlap bearing only four words painted in white: “One Lord. One Church.”
Ten Christian Reformed churches joined with Pentecostal, Reformed Church in America, Vineyard, Wesleyan, and non-denominational congregations to declare their unity in Christ in a weeklong ecumenical effort.
Churches were encouraged to reflect on the suggested sermon themes of “Jesus as Lord” and “The Church Is One.” Other opportunities to get involved included a round-the-clock prayer vigil, an online daily prayer guide, and an interdenominational worship and prayer service that drew roughly 200 people.
The idea for “One Lord. One Church” began with a core group of pastors and community members from various denominations who had been gathering for prayer for the past year. Together they felt convicted about the unspoken competition among and within denominations and a sometimes lukewarm witness to the gospel. Similar to sackcloth in the Old Testament, the burlap covers were intended to be a sign of repentance and humility.
“A diversity of theological insights can be good, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of our unity,” said Scott DeVries, associate pastor of Bethany CRC in Holland “After all, don’t we confess, ‘I believe in the holy catholic church’ when we recite the Apostle’s Creed? Are we confessing that out of one corner of our mouth and denying it from the other corner? We sometimes do.”
The goal of the “One Lord, One Church” effort has been simply to pray in unity together, said planning team member Neal Karsten of Harlem Reformed Church. “This is a beginning, a starting point,” he said.
Organizers hope that in the days and weeks to come, the response they hear is, “What’s next?”