"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity." (Psalm 133:1)
I just returned from our annual meeting that we have for the South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ. We have this meeting each June and we rotate where it is held around the five geographical regions of our Conference. We met this year just south of Houston in the town of Clear Lake City which is where you will also find Johnson Space Center. In fact, the hotel where the meeting was held is just down the road from the Space Center. We have the meeting once a year so we call it "Annual Meeting" and representatives from all of the churches in our Conference are invited to attend. Clergy and lay persons come to the meeting and for three days we do the business of the Conference (electing officers, approving the budget for the next year, hearing reports) worship together, and present and hear workshops about creative ways of doing ministry. Most years I have attended these meetings they have been filled with peace and agreement by participants with occasional disagreements mainly over issues concerning the spending of money.
This year's meeting, though, was filled with peace and harmony and I never heard one cross word or disagreement. It was one of the most uplifting and inspiring church related meetings that I have ever attended of any denomination. There was an excellent keynote speaker who made us laugh at the same time that she gave us a lot to think about. There were well prepared and enthusiastic workshop presenters who challenged us to think differently about ministry. There were musical groups, both in worship and in fun, who lifted our spirits and led us in singing and interactive group dynamics. There was worship that helped us to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit among us. It was a wonderful respite from the daily cares of life.
Being a part of such meetings makes me wonder why the human race has such a hard time getting along with one another. If subsets of the human race can exist for a set period of time and work together for common goals, then why can't we as humans on this planet ever achieve the harmony and peace we desire on a broader scale or for a longer period of time? There have been utopian communities that existed for longer time periods in which persons lived together and worked together and lived in peaceful coexistence. Some of those communities no longer exist as they were but they left examples of how they brought about peaceful living for the time they were able to do so. The Shakers are one example of this. They established their version of utopia in several places in the United States and their members did live and work together for many decades but they had a rule that men and women lived separately and the community could not continue through new births only through grown ups who would join them so their numbers died even as their members did so. Today, one can visit their communities that are preserved as museums and see their work and visit their buildings and know a bit about them but there are only about 2 or 3 surviving members living in the northeast US.
The psalmist said it well--it is good and pleasant when people can be together and get along with each other. It is a goal to work toward both as small groups and as nations on earth. When people put aside their own desires in favor of what is best for the other then harmony can be achieved. Wars most of the time are centered on what a certain nation or group or leader desires and the selfish ambition of achieving that goal becomes at the center of what is important. When the human family decides that what is best for all is the most important thing rather than what is important for one particular nation or group, then perhaps we will begin to learn how to live together in unity.