by Daniele Berman
Several years ago, I was talking to my then-rector and then-boss (and now Bishop) Steve Breedlove, right in the midst of some significant crises in my family’s life. I remember telling him that I had so often heard people talking about how they believe in God but can’t stand His Church, an institution such as it is full of hypocrites and judgment and brokenness and liars and you-fill-in-the-blanks people. As I told Steve then, my experience was precisely the opposite: if I ever had reason to doubt the goodness of God, His Church was proof that it is indeed real. Because there was no other possible explanation for my experience of His people; it could be nothing other than the manifestation of His goodness that had turned our little congregation into my very big family.
Because what other than God could make an institution full of hypocrites and broken people rally around a hurting family like mine? How is it that even as I work in and serve a church roughly one-quarter of whose congregation is age ten or younger, that same church full of families and their children served my family so carefully and well in a difficult season? This is the Body of Christ at work. This is what we are called to be as we worship together on Sunday and as we study together on Wednesday–and also as we work in our separate spheres on Tuesday or rest with our families on Saturday. A familiar passage in 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the body does not consist of one member but many, that though there are many parts–hands, feet, ears, and eyes–there is only one body. “The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable […] God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:22b, 24b-26).
The broken, hypocritical people who call themselves God’s are those who declare the paralyzed hand indispensable, the blind eye essential, the deaf ear vital. My prayer for each of us and our churches, then, is that we would find the freedom to trust our church families with the truth of our paralyses and handicaps, that in those we would find honor and shared suffering, and that in our seasons of strength and health we would seek out those in our congregation whose turn it is to be honored in weakness. Similarly, let’s treasure opportunities to rejoice together with our brothers and sisters who rejoice, even in seasons in our own lives when rejoicing seems far and foreign. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” Paul tells us in verse 27. Even as my family at All Saints Church has risen to occasions both to suffer with me in my suffering and to rejoice with me in my celebrations, I pray that each of us would see the standard set for us alongside the treasures offered to us in our membership in Christ’s body–and praise God for the precious gifts of both of those things!
Sometime in the middle of the amazing adventure of being a full-time single mom, Daniele Berman was given the gift of a job that combines all of her passions—her faith, children, and writing—all in one place, as she works as the children's minister and communications coordinator at All Saints Anglican Church in Durham, NC. In all of these things, and as a former writing teacher, she is a firm believer in the never-final draft, grateful that she and all she does are always works in progress. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6).