by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
March 3, 2017
In the 17th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus prays for his disciples. The prayer takes place during the Last Supper. Jesus knows that he will be leaving them soon, and so he prays for his friends. He prays that God will watch over them and protect them. He prays that God will fill their hearts with love. And he prays, not only for his disciples, but for all people who would eventually come to believe in Jesus through the disciples’ testimony, “that they may all be one.”
It’s an unfortunate reality that, today, the Christian church is not “one.” We are not unified, but have split and split again over issues of dogma and doctrine, polity and politics. Jesus didn’t want it to be this way.
My own denomination, the United Church of Christ, is called “United” because we are one of the few denominations created, not by division, but by unification. Over the course of thirty years, the Congregational churches, Christian churches, Evangelical Synod of North America, and the German Reformed churches merged together until, in 1957, the United Church of Christ was created.
The United Church of Christ has elements of the Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Reformed, and Congregationalist traditions, all together in one denomination. We took, as our denomination’s motto, the words of Jesus’ prayer: “That they may all be one.”
As such, the church I serve, the Custer Community Church, is very open to working with other congregations as we serve Christ by serving others.
One of the great opportunities I have to work with other churches is through the Custer Ministerial Alliance. The CMA is a wonderful group of pastors from many different denominations in Custer who come together and work together. The Custer Ministerial Alliance is a major donor to the Storehouse, which provides food, clothes, and home furnishings to low-income people in Custer. The CMA is the sponsor of the Custer Meet & Eat, which offers a free meal to the public on the second Tuesday of each month. The CMA sponsors a number of Christmas programs for low-income families, including Select-A-Gift and the Christmas meal food baskets. And the CMA offers assistance on an as-needed basis to people who need help paying for groceries, utilities, gas, or rent.
But in addition to all the good work the CMA does, one of the most important functions of the Custer Ministerial Alliance is honoring the words of Jesus, who prayed, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
If you would like to donate to support the work of the Custer Ministerial Alliance, you can send donations to:
Custer Ministerial Alliance
c/o Laurie Arthur
PO Box 368
Custer, SD 57730