Very good, and maybe historic.
On the very good bit, we found the preaching to be very thoughtful, organized, clear, compelling, timely and absent of any hint of ego. We tip the SWNID hat to the day's plenary speakers, Jeff Faull, Prentice Meador and Jeff Walling.
The congregational music was exceptional, combining the worship teams of an instrumental Christian church and a non-instrumental church of Christ with songs ably led with and without instruments and across the spectrum of traditional and contemporary.
It takes a lot to move the hard SWNIDish heart, but we were moved.
But note the pattern of the program: this year's NACC, in the 100th anniversary of the Sand Creek Declaration that marks the division between the Christian churches and churches of Christ on the question of instrumental music in worship, deliberately brought together representatives of both groups to express real fraternal unity in Christ. Lots of this kind of thing has been happening for years, of course, but this event struck SWNID, an observer of 47.5-years of history, as potentially a big deal.
Expressions of unity and brotherhood climaxed last night as Jeff Walling, with visible emotion, declared that members of both groups must no longer merely be "nice" to each other but must live as family (which, he rightly notes, is "messy" but permanent). He then, with more visible emotion, offered a treasured Bible, given him by his mother on the death of his father, to Dave Stone, preaching minister at Southeast Christian Church of Louisville. Dave had a Bible for Jeff too. And then various others made Bible exchanges.
This was a remarkably powerful symbolic act for those present. But we think it will lead to more: to real cooperation between institutions in both camps.
The truth is, each group has things that will help the other. We cite what we have observed:
- The noninstrumental churches have enjoyed modest growth in the last decade. The independent churches are exploding, relatively. The independents have experience and resources to share.
- The noninstrumentals have many excellent scholars in the theological disciplines. The independents have some, but not lots. There are already many a capellas teaching in independent-church institutions of higher education. There will be more in the future.
- Similarly, the noninstrumentals have several liberal arts colleges and universities. The independents have lots of Bible colleges. These complementary modes of Christian higher education can, should and probably will have more students from each heritage attending in the future, depending on the needs and goals of individual students more than the specific sectarian identity of the institution.
- The noninstrumental churches have significant membership in nonwhite populations in the United States. The independents don't, to their shame.
On this last point, with the first, we therefore tentatively propose the following for the consideration of our gentle readers and others (though how one can consider this proposal without reading it here remains to be seen):
Can one or several independent Christian churches in Cincinnati begin to work with Cincinnati's predominantly African-American churches of Christ to plan the planting of churches serving minority populations in areas of the metro area underserved by predominantly minority churches?
If something like this can happen, and in more places than just Cincinnati, then what we witnessed yesterday will be historic.