Thursday, February 01, 2024


Walt Wiltschek

“In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all.” —Eph. 4:25, The Message

Like many of you, I watched the NFL’s Super Bowl this past weekend, and apparently we weren’t alone. ESPN reported that the game averaged more than 123 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in the history of television. More than 200 million people watched at least part of the broadcast.

Whether they came for football fandom, for the commercials, for the frenetic halftime show, to catch some glimpses of Taylor Swift, or just to socialize and snack at a viewing party, something brought all those people together for part of a Sunday evening to join in a common experience.

Church used to occupy a similar place in our social rhythms, but any study will tell you that is decreasingly the case. A 2022 survey found that about 20 percent of people now attend church weekly (or near-weekly). Another put the average number of people who are in church on any given Sunday at about 25 million. In the Church of the Brethren, the average weekly worship attendance denomination-wide is a bit under 21,000, according to 2022 Yearbook figures.

What has eroded our place in the social fabric? Changing demographics, pandemic-driven changes in the ways we gather, different cadences of family life, schisms and division, perceived judgmentalism and hypocrisy, and a slowness to adapt have all been cited. Yet for some, there is still a desire for that sort of connection, a community of sacred relationship and meaning.

A Catholic university near here often talks about “the Red Thread” as a metaphor for its unique identity, something that connects current students, staff, and alumni over the decades. “The Red Thread ties us all together as a family, stitches together our collective experiences and cultures for the greater good,” a statement on the school’s website says.

I’ve appreciated the joy in relationships in this district, often despite our differences. We share a common desire to follow Jesus, a commitment to making a difference in the lives of others in need, a meaningful joy in worshiping together, a shared mission in supporting our camps and other larger ministries, and more.

What else would you name as the thread that stitches us together? And how do we extend that to connect others, or to connect them more fully? We might never lead the Nielsen ratings, but working and serving together, we can create shared experiences that are impactful far beyond what we might expect.