Why does the designation “Reconciling In Christ” matter? We often pride ourselves on the phrase “all are welcome,” so what’s the difference?
I was fortunate enough to work and serve in an RIC congregation for internship, and honestly, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I saw a congregation that really embodied the All Are Welcome motto, and that was cool. And I went through the year hearing, “Oh, you work at THAT church.” The RIC status seemed like just another identifier, that was, until the morning of June 12th when a congregation member informed the pastoral staff of the Orlando shooting.
I witnessed the ripple of that news throughout the congregation as they grieved, as they frantically checked on loved ones in the Orlando area, and as they sat overwhelmed in disbelief.
That Wednesday’s service was thoughtfully crafted as a healing service with an intentional focus on the heartbreaking reality of our world. St. Stephen’s was the only church in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area to publicly advertise a prayer service of this nature. The welcome and invitation spread through the news and social media and it was stressed that all are really welcome.
I share some of the words from my supervisor, Pastor Ritva Williams’ reflection that evening:
“We live in a world where some people say that a person is not worthy of our love and acceptance, because they perceive him/her/them to be the wrong age, the wrong size, the wrong color, the wrong nationality, the wrong gender, they love the wrong people, hold the wrong economic, social or legal status, have the wrong disabilities, and so forth. We live in a world where some people seek to limit and prevent a person’s access to jobs, housing, medical care, and even restrooms for the same reasons. We live in a world where some people seek to justify opinions and actions like this by quoting biblical rules.
The good news, that Paul proclaims, is that Christ has put an end to all that. We do not need to spend our lives trying to prove to ourselves, or to anyone else, that we are worthy of love and acceptance by obeying rules, not even biblical rules. Our worth is not determined by how well we obey rules, or the work we do, or the groups we belong to. Our worth is based on the fact that each of us is created in the image of God.”
And that is why RIC matters. Because it’s more than saying All Are Welcome; it’s actually believing that every single person is created in the image of God.