One of the dangers of being a priest in Anderson Township is living in a bubble. I have spent twenty-four wonderful years in Anderson. I have been blessed with an extraordinary church community that I love to no end. However, because one of my primary responsibilities is to provide pastoral care to the members of St. Timothy’s, I spend most of my time with people who live in Anderson, or the adjacent neighborhoods of Mt. Washington and Clermont County. Recent demographic studies show that Anderson is 99% white. Only 4% of residents are foreign born, the largest segment coming from India, followed by Syria. Although I don’t have statistics on this, certainly the vast majority of the population with any religious affiliation would be Christian. There is certainly some socio-economic diversity and, according to the most recent statistics I could find, about an even split between Democrats and Republicans. Although very few communities are mono-chrome, Anderson is a fairly homogenous bubble in many ways.
Living in a bubble is dangerous if we believe that Jesus is the way. Jesus was constantly inviting his disciples to move out of their bubble. For example, he invited them to burst their bubble by associating with tax collectors and sinners, gentiles, and other “unclean” people. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, St. Paul invited converts to burst their bubble by joining a community that broke down the wall between Jews and Gentile, slave and free, and male and female. What we see in the ministry of Jesus and the early church is the recognition that God’s mission is all about bringing into being a neighborhood that includes the rich diversity of human life.
Several months ago, I became part of the Cincinnati Community Coalition. CCC is an interfaith organization that was formed following the election to counter the divisive forces of our time by building bridges between people of different faith and ethnic backgrounds. At our most recent meeting we worked to clarify our mission. Our tentative proposal was the following: The mission of the Cincinnati Community Coalition is to burst bubbles. We recognized that many Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of other faith traditions tend to live in their own bubbles. We also recognized, that every time we burst our bubbles, we not only helped God make this world what God intends it to be, but we encountered God.
If you live in a bubble, I encourage you to burst it in some way. As we move toward what is different and “other,” we not only build God’s kingdom, but we grow closer to God. If you would like to join me at the next meeting of the Cincinnati Community Coalition, Tuesday, June 27, 7:00pm, at the Clifton Mosque, let me know.