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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elect from every nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation:
one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

Samuel John Stone’s “The Church’s One Foundation” (tune: Aurelia)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

My memories of this great hymn go back to childhood; it is so familiar to me that I am able to sing a good part of it from memory—even beyond the first verse. It is robust and powerful in its reiteration that we may seek the church wherever we may be and of the Christian belief and reminder of the unity of Christians, no matter where they may be.

As a preacher’s kid and throughout my adult life, I’ve spent a lot of time in church—in fact, in many churches: small city churches, large city churches, small town churches, rural churches, African American churches, high church, low church, Catholic churches, Baptist churches, UCC churches, Methodist churches, and others. As a Commissioner to Presbytery, a Presbytery staffer, seminary staffer, church camper, and conference attendee, I’ve experienced church in noncongregational settings, too. This stanza of the hymn reminds me that the church transcends all these settings and denominations—notice how frequently the word one appears.

Christians come from different places, worship in different ways, and yet we are one in Christ who, through his life and teachings, is the foundation of what we believe and do. Once, when a move to a new city was imminent, I was expressing some anxiety about getting to know the new city and new people. A dear friend said something like this: “Well, find your church—when you walk in the door, you know what it is about, you will know what to do, and you will feel at home.” And so it was.

Good and gracious God, help us to always remember that we, as members of a particular church, are part of the Church Universal, holding your Son Jesus as the foundation of our faith and seeking to follow him in every way. Remind us to seek the church wherever we may be, that we may live out our call to be one with Christians everywhere. Amen.

Written by Martha Brown, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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