"A Tale of Two Cities" By Kathi Scarpace
From "A Place at the Table," a ParishWorld Blog
My new parish is composed of two parishes that served the same city. One parish was on one side of the highway, the other on the opposite. One parish typically had more Spanish-speaking parishioners, the other more English-speaking.
Originally, there was only one parish. In the 1930s the English-speaking church, which had a school, forced out the Spanish-speaking children. As a result of this hateful action, the second parish was formed and thrived for the past 69 years.
Now because of the priest shortage, the influx of families seeking affordable housing and other issues, the two parishes will once again be one. You can imagine all the issues and feelings as the two communities with this history now find themselves face to face, working together. (The new church has yet to be built.)
The two parish councils came together this past week. Some councilors were able to say how angry they felt when learning of the unification. Others expressed enthusiasm and hope for the future. All agreed that good leadership and healing would be needed for the strong and good life of this new parish to take hold and flourish.
Prejudice in its many forms is difficult to face in civil life. Within the church community, it is even more difficult. Admitting the wrongs of the past, apologizing for them and asking forgiveness is one task. Welcoming and forgiving those who have harmed us is another. The new parish will be founded, not on glory and success, but on pain, mercy, and forgiveness.
The early church felt the pain of division, too. How was the church community to accept Gentiles who believed in Christ? Did these Gentiles need to follow Jewish law? It was not all that clear, even with the leaders.
Paul writes an impassioned account in Galatians: “But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party” (2:11-12).”
Because of Paul’s willingness to face the division he saw in the church, he was able to give us the wonderful gift of these words: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for your are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:27-28).
There is neither north nor south, legal nor illegal, Spanish-speaking nor English-speaking, affluent or poor.
We are all one in Christ.
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