“How wonderful, how beautiful when brothers and sisters get along!… That’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life”. Psalm 133 (The Message)
In an earlier blog I already shared how much I am enjoying Eugene Peterson’s “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” and today reading this Psalm and his reflection on community caused me to reflect on the Oaxacan Covenant Church. I’m sure we can all attest to times where we have witnessed the beauty described by this Psalm.
There is quite a bit of diversity within the Covenant Church in Oaxaca, some similar and other quite different than the diversity we see in the U.S. Covenant church. Racially there are different indigenous groups, speaking their own dialects, as well as many mestizos (a mix of Indian and Spanish and other backgrounds) speaking only Spanish. There are churches up in the mountain regions that are more conservative in worship, dress, and traditions. The churches in the Isthmus tend to be more charismatic with lively worship, dancing, and speaking in tongues. The role of women is much stronger in the Isthmus culture in general and that is where we have our first and only female pastor in Oaxaca. The churches in the valley include a little more economic and educational diversity, however, the majority still are in poorer neighborhoods, just as it is in the mountains and Isthmus.
Although most churches here are charismatic in their worship and prayer style, there are others that are more orderly, quiet, and still sing some hymns once in a while. This last year a church of this latter type joined the Covenant. Pastor Julio studied at a Seminary in Puebla (compared to most of the other Oaxacan pastors who haven’t studied Seminary and some who don’t have primary education) and has a very solid Biblical and theological base. He and his wife, from Monterrey, have two boys around the ages of Matías and Lucas and so for many reasons we’re becoming good friends. We’re excited to share that we have decided to make the church that Julio is pastoring, Amparo y Fortaleza (Shelter and Strength) Covenant Church our regular church home.
Another church that is thinking about joining the Covenant is from a Pentecostal background, with a high emphasis on experiencing the Holy Spirit through prophecy, tongues and the power of prayer. Each of these pastors preached at the last South District Pastor’s meeting and I was struck by the amazing difference between their style and content. Even though I find myself connecting more easily with those like Pastor Julio because of my background, I am also learning how to appreciate those who read the Bible and pray quite differently than I do. These two pastors may disagree with each other on worship most of the time and even on theology sometimes, but they’ve both found a home in the Covenant. Pray with us that they and all of us in the church learn how to share our differences in a respectful way and listen to each other. How beautiful it is when brothers and sisters get along!