As part of exploring the calling to build bridges between denominations in the Church, I have reflected a lot this summer on the groups and denominations that have formed me. As someone who intentionally doesn’t claim a denominational affiliation out of respect for the broad spectrum of Christian (Trinitarian) groups that have formed me, I wanted to develop a wearable way of explanation my formation process in traditional, denominationally specific settings. Out of the respect for the ways God has used these different threads to weave me together, I decided to weave my history into a bracelet.
My family history doesn’t come out of one liturgical tradition. My mother’s side of the family was raised as conservative Irish Catholics, while my father’s side of the family was raised United Methodist Protestant. Realistically, due to the name change my father’s family underwent in immigrating to the United States (from “Nussbaum” to “Nus”), it is also likely that my ancestor’s were ethnically Jewish.
While mixing these two Christian traditions was considered controversial at the time of my parents’ union, I now consider it as a precursor to my calling to work as a bridge between different sectors of the Church. As a child, I still have vivid memories of Catholic iconography around my home and saying memorized prayers that my mother taught us. While I do not claim Catholic practices like praying to the Saints or Virgin Mary as an adult, I still believe in learning from the Saints’ lives and have a deep respect for Catholic traditions like the Stations of the Cross. Catholicism’s focus on incarnationally finding Jesus throughout one’s entire life span, appreciation for the supernatural, and focus on the arts and scholarship as worship has significantly shaped my protestant faith.
In spite of being obliged to go to a United Methodist Church during part of my youth, I struggled to connect with God there. Prior to my definitive encounter with Jesus, I had various spiritual experiences as a kid and had been seeking God gradually since my teenage years. I first fully encountered Jesus 8 years ago on study abroad in Valparaiso, Chile. Due to the intensity of that encounter, when I came back to the United States, I went through a 180* change and identity-seeking process.
As a result of having a conversion experience outside of my national context, I came back to the United States with questions like, “Why are denominational divisions necessary?” and “How can churches learn from one another?” Through friendships in college, I participated in Intervarsity Asian American Christian Fellowship and Inspirational Gospel Voices of KU. While I am neither Asian nor African American, the way I supported my friends in these groups (and the history of ethnic diversity in my family) made room for me to participate. The denominational streams represented in these groups incapsulated Asian American Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Baptists, as well as African American Methodists (AME), Baptists, and Church of God in Christ (COGIC) churchgoers.
After college, I moved to Washington, D.C. where through work, worship, and study, I continued to learn from various denominations. I worked at a Catholic School, attended an Episcopal seminary, and worshipped at Nondenominational Evangelical and Charismatic churches.
Ultimately, because of my focus on the nations, I decided to include a stone on this bracelet that commemorates all the traditions and countries I’ve learned from past and present.
Lord, give us the grace to learn from and celebrate many denominations,
May we receive all the insight we can, and leave it to you to ultimately arbitrate our disagreements,
Help us recognize Christ in all cultures and ethnic groups,
Help us to know our history, even if we do not formally claim membership,
May we represent your Body of Christ and recognize one another through the indwelling, manifest Spirit of Jesus,
May we be a bridge-building people who can heal cultural divisions through your peace.