Divided families are always a challenge. Some manage better than others. I grew up in a divided family – biological parents in Mississippi and adoptive parents in Arkansas. I entered adulthood with a divided family – adoptive mom remarried in Kentucky and adoptive dad remarried in Georgia. It’s not always negative circumstances that divide. I have siblings in five different states because that is where life and work and time have taken us. Currently, because of personal choices and the aging of children, I have daughters in different states desiring to honor relationships with parents who live in different states. As in many families, holidays and family time are negotiated. We try our best to love well.

Our church family will be divided on Sunday, March 3. Nothing negative has caused this cleft. Quite the opposite; it will be a positive and productive day. Part of our congregation will be attending the Annual Churchwide Retreat at Black Mountain, NC. Another portion of the faith family will be celebrating the First Sunday of Lent here at 847 Cleveland Street. If you are not attending retreat, our Sunday morning worship service will be held in the Fellowship Hall at 10:30am – regular worship time. There will be no Sunday School that morning and no childcare will be provided; feel free to bring the babies and children to worship. I will be returning from Black Mountain on Sunday morning to lead this service. Having spent Friday and Saturday with church family on retreat, I’d like to return and spend Sunday with church family as we enter the holy season of Lenten reflection and discipline. I’m looking forward to beginning our study of Elijah in a slightly more intimate setting.

I’m speaking a word of thanks today that it is only miles dividing us on March 3. We are a church – a family – that has learned to live and love with a great sense of and appreciation for our diversity. Our differences have made us stronger and more loving rather than dividing us. Our alternative perspectives have nurtured grace and wonder rather than judgment and ignorance. At times we are in different places – geographically and philosophically, but we really aren’t divided. It is only miles that separate us. We are connected by much more. We are family. We love well.

— Jim