If you ever set foot on the campus of Harvard University you will notice that the sidewalks are curiously arranged. At other public institutions, the sidewalks might run around the outer edge of green spaces and connect the buildings in straight lines. A few might cross the space, but direct connections between buildings are limited. This is a common landscaping scheme to create an orderly aesthetic. The sidewalks at Harvard are not constructed in this manner. Once you step out of the doorway of a building, sidewalks shoot off in every direction to every point you might travel. A virtual spider’s web of concrete allows direct access to your destination across campus. The walkways are random, but more efficient.
This came about because for generations Harvard lacked sidewalks. Students and faculty simply maneuvered from building to building in the most direct routes they could through grass, mud, and snow. When Harvard finally got around to paving the pathways, they decide to not impose order to the multitude of routes. They paved them all. And that is how Harvard came to have such an eclectic network of sidewalks.
I am reminded of that story when I think about the mixture of people we have in the church. For some, an orderly arrangement of sidewalks would make absolute sense. For others, the seemingly random but more direct way might seem better. Likewise with the church, I know people who love the rhythm and flow of a beautiful liturgical prayer. I know others that appreciate the freedom and directness of an extemporaneous prayer. In the same way that some people learn better sitting around a table discussing a passage of scripture, others might gain more hearing a lecture. One person might gain a world of spiritual insight from a well preached sermon. Another’s heart might be filled better by a service project beyond the church walls. All of that is to say that the church, the people in it, their spiritual needs, and more are truly diverse.
Part of being a welcoming church, a church that is welcoming to the diversity of God’s creation, is honoring the multitude of ways that people experience God and grow in faith. When we vary the liturgy on Sunday morning, we are seeking to do that. When we offer a variety of Sunday Classes presented in a variety of ways we are doing that. My favorite thing might not be your favorite thing, but by lifting up the variety of human expression we create a more welcoming environment to friends and visitors alike.
A few weeks ago, we read about the calling of the Twelve Apostles in Matthew. I am not sure that Jesus could have gathered a more diverse group of people in 1stCentury Israel. The church is just as diverse today with more diversity waiting beyond the church walls. Let’s live into the blessing and richness of God’s creation.