St. Louis King of Spain Church, Port-au-Prince (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
For the last several weekends, churches in Binghamton and across the Southern Tier have been united. Though still gathering in different houses of worship, houses still doctrinally separated, all have been joined each weekend in prayer for the millions of God’s children struggling to survive amid the rubble of what had been families, homes and lives, in what is left of Haiti. All the faithful prayed for all the victims, of whatever faith – or of no faith at all, it didn’t matter. They prayed for the families of those victims. They took up special collections of money and goods. Some churches held special services, just to pray for Haiti.
But this was by no means the first time here that a house divided had come together without hesitation to minister to those struck by tragedy. On June 29, 2006, the Susquehanna River hit record flood levels, destroying more than 900 homes and forcing the evacuation of some 5,000 people in Broome County alone. The village of Conklin was virtually submerged. The Conklin Presbyterian Church headed up relief operations in that area. They were joined by members of the Union Center Christian Church, as well as 800 to 900 “very interdenominational” volunteers, according to relief operations director Greg Jenkins. Downriver in Owego, volunteers from Catholic and United Methodist churches worked side by side with members of the First Church of the Nazarene in Owego, the Owego First Baptist Church and many more congregations who didn’t care if they were recognized: they just wanted to help.
And all over the world the story has been the same: whenever tragedy strikes, people of faith come together, joined by a bond of love for others that makes them one at a level far more fundamental than doctrine.
Today there are many encouraging signs. Many church leaders are talking, and listening. Joint statements are being made. Progress toward greater unity is being made. But while “church building” continues from the top down, while theologians wrangle over reconciling official positions, there is nothing standing in the way of building the body of believers from the bottom up at the same time – a body joined by caring, and by the common call to witness to the love and goodness of God.
For more info: To find out more about ways in which area congregations of all faiths are working together, contact the Broome County Council of Churches.