I was in Boston for three days last weekend working in a number of exciting missional-ecumenical contexts. Boston is best known, in terms of its Christian leadership, for the work of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. I pray for Cardinal O’Malley, a leader who represents Pope Francis and his vision as well as any American leader in the Catholic Church. Let me explain some of what I mean by sharing about my recent experience in Boston.
On Sunday evening (November 16) I met with twelve ecumenical leaders from the city. Included among those at the table were some wonderful folks such as the leader of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the newly appointed dean of the Orthodox Cathedral, the evangelical catalyst for overseeing the joint efforts of ten seminaries in the greater Boston area, a lay leader in the office of ecumenism for Cardinal O’Malley and various religious leaders, both clergy and non-clergy. We were Catholic, Orthodox, charismatic, evangelical, mainline Protestant. We were Asian, white, black and hispanic. We were male and female, young and old. It was quite a group and the energy in the dialogue was rich and Spirit-directed. The prayers moved some of us very deeply and we wept with joy. Friendships were strengthened and made. It was all around a delightful evening meal hosted by two dear Focolare friends that I met in June in New York at the Luminosa Award ceremony. All of these lovely guests are active in mission for unity in Boston. My host for three days was my long-time friend Dr. Mark Yoon and my new friend, Scott Brill. (I also met Scott in June at the Luminosa ceremony.) Scott is an ecumenical leader in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the co-founder of the new Institute for Christian Unity. The Institute sponsored our first Boston Unity Factor Forum on Saturday, November 15.
You should also check out Unite Boston on Facebook, a movement that is doing some great work in the city. The leader, an energetic and visionary young woman, shared in this same dinner. She has a heart for unity like few I’ve met in the U.S. I look forward to forging new friendships through Unite Boston as she gets to know me better. She is now reading Your Church Is Too Small since I gave her my only copy I took along on this trip.
In addition please check out Emmanuel Gospel Center. I will write a longer blog on the EGC mission next week. The story of this evangelical witness in an urban context is truly one of the greatest stories of missional-ecumenism I’ve personally encountered in America. EGC hosted our ACT3 Unity Factor Forum last Saturday, November 15. Mark Yoon is the chairman of the EGC board and also serves as the evangelical chaplain at Boston University. Mark and I met a decade ago in Chicago after his daughter studied at Wheaton College Graduate School. I thank God that Grace Yoon insisted that I meet her dad. We did meet and became close friends for life.
What God is doing in Boston is truly amazing. One older leader called the Boston story a “quiet revival.” I am inclined to agree based upon my small three-day sample. Here, in greater Boston, the Spirit has been moving for decades. This work is not about politics or ideology but rather about unity, grace and reaching the unchurched with the good news of Jesus. This work is neither sectarian nor overtly linked to any one church expression. One of the greatest visible supporters in this movement of the Spirit is Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Cardinal O’Malley was interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes while we were enjoying our Sunday evening meal. You can see the program online. I will watch the entire program in the next day or so. CBS called the interview with Cardinal O’Malley one which revealed his “careful candor.” I love that. Journalists are missing this “candor” because they do not understand it well but many Christians have missed it as well, including some bishops! The second clip is so fascinating if you want to get perspective on how such an interview is actually done.
Pope Francis has called Cardinal O’Malley the leader that he trusts and looks to for leadership in America. I can understand why this is true when I see and hear this man of God speak of the joy of the gospel. Pray for Boston and all Christian believers in this great city.
On Sunday morning, November 16, I preached at a young church on the campus of Boston University. (I will write more about this soon.) This evangelical church, which is less than five years old, draws well over 300 young adults and is growing and reaching the unchurched every single week. (The average age of the congregation that I preached to in the morning was about 23!) Please do not tell me that young adults will not respond to the gospel when it is presented with joy, in the power of the Spirit, and in a context that understands and relates to their story.
The Cardinal O’Malley interview is worth reading about here:
Cardinal O’Malley: ‘If I were founding a Church, I’d love to have women priests’.