This coming Sunday, June 3rd, our community will gather along the length of Dorchester Avenue to celebrate Dorchester Day and commemorate its incorporation on June 1, 1630 with a parade of police cars, floats and local politicians. So, after church on Sunday, we will sit on the curb with our neighbors to be (hopefully) showered with candy and treated to skilled performances by dance troupes, martial arts schools and school marching bands. Despite being firmly within the city limits, we will, for an afternoon, adopt the feel of a small town as we wave our tiny American flags and put aside our differences in order to enjoy all our community has to offer.
It is good to get together with people every once in a while. Having a sense of community is important. But, don’t take my word for it; these are the words of Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States:
We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s. Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely, and research suggests that the real number may well be higher.
We are, despite all of our followers on Twitter and all our friends on Facebook, a bunch of lonely people.
I wish that all our neighbors – irrespective of economic, ethnic, racial or age-related distinctions – would have a parade to attend every weekend. I wish there were a regular event where we all could enjoy community. Rarely do we get together with someone somewhere outside of our well-defined demographics; that is, except for one particular occasion. God’s word has a remedy for this epidemic of loneliness: the family of God. That’s right, the church. If you are feeling isolated, attend a service of worship this weekend.
… not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
Accept the challenge to be counter-cultural. Be willing to gather for an hour to hear music that you haven’t chosen and reflect on topics you haven’t selected, surrounded by people who are not completely like you. Be willing to engage in prayer and praise with those who have more and with those who have less. Be willing to share your story with those of a different culture and with those from a different upbringing. Be willing to rejoice with those who have something to rejoice over (even when it is something you might not celebrate) and mourn with those who have something to mourn over (even if you cannot sympathize with their pain).
If you are uncomfortable around people who are not quite like you and are a little scared to enter the doors of a church and be surrounded by strangers, come to the parade and look for me (I will be the only guy standing near Ashmont station in a suit and tie). I would be blessed to celebrate the community with you and develop some community with you. Maybe we can shake the mayor’s hand as well.
As I watched the Dorchester Day Parade last Sunday, I thought about how much I love my adopted hometown. I love that there is always a Dunkin Donuts within walking distance. I love that we are home to one of the thirteen Presidential Libraries and the one and only iconically painted gas tank. I love that we have access to a great public transportation system that will take us to great restaurants, doctors, sports events, jobs, theaters and museums. I love that we have sprawling parks, playgrounds and green-spaces in nearly every neighborhood. I love the Christmas lights on Adams Street in December and the neighborhood yard sales throughout the spring and summer. I love the ocean breezes that keep the oppressive temperatures and the snowfall totals down. Dorchester is a great place to live.
When I saw the bands and floats, the politicians and the schools marching down Dorchester Avenue, I realized what I really love about Dorchester – we are a genuine melting pot. Our community is made up of people of varying languages and accents, everything from thick Irish brogues to Haitian inflections. At the parade we enjoyed the skills of Asian martial artists, island dancers, Caribbean brass band members, and Hispanic drill teams; people were shaking hands with elected officials and candidates from every demographic and ideological leaning. The best thing about Dorchester is that it is preparing me for what I imagine heaven must be like.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9
One great and glorious day all that makes us different – skin tones, languages and cultural distinctions – will fade into the background and our one unifying common bond – our relationship and redemption with Christ – will be all that matters. All those who have been adopted as a child of God through the atoning work of Christ will gather before the throne of the Almighty and the Lamb of God. While we won’t all speak the same language, we will all understand together; while we will not share the same experiences, we will all know the truth. No one will care from whence you’ve come and only who has brought you to the place of purest joy.
There is great blessing in proclaiming the gospel in a heterogeneous community. Within our building we minister through three diverse congregations – one predominantly Anglo, one Vietnamese and one Hispanic. Within the Anglo congregation I am pastoring, we have, at various times, had as participants Brits, Canadians, Egyptians, Haitians, Hondurans, Jamaicans, Nigerians, Swedes, Thais and more. Despite our cultural differences, we all declare that the truth of the Scriptures: that God gave his son Jesus to suffer and die for our sins; that he was crucified to satisfy the just wrath of God against all wickedness; and that he rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. One day all who trust in him will join him there…and it will be even better than the Dorchester Day Parade!
So, what do you love about where you live?