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by Beth Kennett

Today, the Church—and any community that encourages belonging, love and acceptance—has an opportunity to boldly step into the present and lead the way into the future. Today, I embrace this idea more strongly than other days. Today, our nation, with ripples throughout the world, exists in a state of significant divide. Regardless of how one voted, or didn’t, yesterday—today we see numbers of division. While those numbers represent our country’s political state, the division has gone far beyond our political candidates and the politics of governing and has infused into many aspects of daily life, and even church life. As faith communities we are called to love and build a relationship with God our Creator and to build communities to share faith, hope, peace and love with others. Today, may we be the Church and bridge the divide. Today, may we be the Church and share God’s love with others. Today, may we be the Church and build community in and with all of creation.

Through the Center for Congregational Health, we frequently help congregations to think about and live into being a healthy church. Healthy congregations frequently exhibit 5 characteristics—they have a clear sense of identity, they know who they are, where they are and what their purpose is; they seek to build a strong sense of community where people feel connected and matter; healthy congregations work at communicating who they are and what they do, both internally and externally so that members and others can decide how and when to engage; healthy congregations understand that all members will not always agree and at times there will be conflict, they create plans and processes for when there is conflict so they can manage and work with it in a manner that is healthy and not detrimental; and healthy congregations know that change is always happening and they seek ways to respond faithfully to change, ways that engage the community to grow and practice who they are and who God calls them to be.

A healthy church can be an example for society on how to move through challenges and division. A healthy church can be a respite from the chaos and hurt that happens in our world. A healthy church can be a place where people find love, acceptance and belonging. A healthy church can be the leader in bringing hope and peace to a divided nation.

My prayer today is that you have a healthy church to connect with and that your healthy church will be a leader for others in loving people and healing divide. Amen.