Weekly Encouragement: “Coexistence” Versus “Cooperation”

“That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
Romans 1:12

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I imagine that you have seen the COEXIST bumper sticker pictured above — bright blue, with artfully mingled symbols for several of the world’s major faiths, representations of gender, and a peace sign. It presents a hopeful message in our troubling time when some people are trying hard to sever any ties of coexistence between faiths, between races, or between nations.

But it troubles me that coexistence is actually a very minimal standard for getting along with people who may differ from us. It reminds me of my parents’ admonition to me and my brothers to “just leave each other alone.” That might be sufficient to stop a quarrel, but it is not a solid ground upon which to repair that quarrel―much less to build the kind of lasting and loving relationships that one would hope for a family.

A mindset of intentional coexistence in our world might be sufficient to lessen some quarrels, but it is not enough of a solid ground upon which to build the kind of lasting and loving relationships that one would hope for the human family.

“Cooperation” is one word that comes to mind as a more active alternative, and it seems to relate more directly to what we at St. Paul’s hopes to foster through our Lenten Series this year, The City of God. We are welcoming speakers from other faith traditions not only to coexist with them, but to learn from them, to share in their aspirations, to be challenged by their views, and perhaps to discover ways to cooperate with them, and with others, in the shared project of making our city more into a city of God. With a slight change in the Romans passage above that I’m using for each of these blog posts, I pray that through our Lenten Series, we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faiths.

I also pray that many of you will be present tomorrow to welcome Imam Ammar Amonette from the Islamic Center of Virginia. Bring friends and coworkers with you as a physical representation of our desire to support Richmond’s Muslim community, especially following the horrific mosque attack in New Zealand last week. Be present, and stay for lunch, to talk about how we can actively cooperate with our Muslim neighbors.

Though I’ve not seen one on a car yet, there is apparently a bumper sticker that follows this same line of thinking, and which incorporates an even wider variety of symbols. It says, I Believe in COOPERATION. Let’s believe in cooperation, and follow that belief with acts of cooperation.

God’s Peace,

The Rev. Bill Queen
Interim Rector, St. Paul’s Church