March-April 2024: Unifying Power

Bonnie WohllebenPastor's Blog

As you may know, this church has a tradition of hosting daily noontime services of worship Monday through Friday during Holy Week. This year will be my second time planning and hosting these services as your pastor. While different pastors have taken different approaches to these services down through the years, I have made it a priority to invite a preacher from a different Christian tradition for each day of the week. Last year, we hosted a United Methodist preacher, a Cowboy Church preacher, a Lutheran preacher, a Southern Baptist preacher, and a Presbyterian preacher. This year, I’m glad to say that we are on track to feature five different Christian traditions once again. 

On Monday of Holy Week (3/25), we’ll host the Rev. Tony Hiatt, priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, which is just down Church Street from us as the corner of Church and Hale. On Tuesday (3/26), we’ll host the Rev. Ryan Bishop, pastor of Redeemer Church, a Baptist church in Graham, TX, over in Young County. On Wednesday (3/27), we’ll host a United Methodist: the Rev. Todd Harris, our very own District Superintendent here in the Northwest District of the North Texas Conference. On Thursday (3/28), we’ll host the Rev. Chris Wann, pastor of Community Church, a Nondenominational church here in Decatur. Finally, on Friday (3/29), we’ll host the Rev. Rick Ross, who recently retired after many fruitful years as Decatur Church of Christ’s preaching minister. I look forward to hearing God’s word preached by each of these five servants of Christ.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’ve insisted on having preachers from a different tradition for each of these services. After all, this is a United Methodist church; why not have all United Methodists? Or, to take the opposite angle, why worry at all about what traditions our guest preachers do or don’t represent? As long as they’re preaching the gospel, who cares what they call themselves? These are valid questions. There are many reasons why I’m excited to host these five denominationally-diverse preachers during Holy Week, but for the sake of space, I’ll just offer one.

I believe hosting these five preachers is a testimony to the unifying power of the gospel. Each tradition represented by these preachers has a long history of development and division. That we have names like “Methodist” and “Baptist” and “Episcopalian” is evidence that at some point in our history we found it necessary to make some distinction between ourselves and another group of Christians. For example, the word “Episcopalian” as a denominational name was first used to differentiate those who believed the church should be governed by bishops (“episkopoi” in Greek) from those who believed it should be governed by a plurality of ordained elders (“presbyteroi” in Greek) in ascending church courts, that is, Presbyterians. Yet despite the history of divisions and distinctions within the church, we are still one body in Christ. 

We may disagree on the right time and method for baptism, the right way to structure our church government, the right interpretation of biblical prophecy, the right understanding of the Lord’s Supper, or any number of other second- and third-order issues. Nonetheless, we all stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the essential, timeless, soul-saving doctrines of the faith that are summarized in the Apostles’ Creed. When it comes to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are all of one heart and mind. I look forward to embodying that unity-in-diversity this Holy Week, and I hope you are, too. See you there!

Dr. Nick McRae
Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Decatur