Iona is a small island off Scotland’s west coast where St. Columba built his religious community in the 6th century. Standing at the back of the island, you look south and west across the rough and windy Irish Sea. It is a route followed by Columba, when driven by some necessity, he left his native land and sailed in a small, leaky boat called a caracle with his companions. They had no fixed destination. But when they reached Iona, they lived a life that brought a compelling gospel to that part of the world.
Like Jesus before him, Columba found a vast pluralism, a multipolar culture in that part of Scotland. One of the challenges of his fist years of building community was learning to be minorities together, to learn from each other, including discovering the ways that a culture found can bring illumination to the religious tradition one brings. Iona Christianity became “Noah-like,” a cadre of diverse humanity not unlike the variety of life on the Ark.
We have the same possibilities in our own day. Bethesda-by-the-Sea can be of great influence in these settings. We’ve historically been broad-minded, containing comprehensiveness, exhibiting a wide beach front of Christian expressions, holding opposite ideas in our minds at the same time. In such times as these an effective gospel proclamation is to tell the Christian story as a large narrative, to be a bridge church between cultures, races, genders, nations, religions, orientations and identities.
So we are afloat this summer. Any leaks are often plugged by willing servants, but the seas are choppy and oft-times unruly. We have a destination — a renewed and comprehensive faith for a growing plurality around us and hospitality and welcome for all, no exceptions. So come aboard, join our local witness, participate in the sail, exercise your gifts, give lavishly of your resources, and discover your niche on God’s vessel.