Dean Phelps, Transitional Regional Minister
When he was in third grade, my older brother learned long division. I would have been three or four years old, so I don’t have direct memory of these events. I only know the stories I was told.
We had a chalkboard in our house for as long as I can remember. My brother was enthusiastic about the wonderful things he was learning. He wanted to share. He practiced by teaching me. I guess long division proved especially challenging, though. As it was told to me, he went to our mom at one point and said, “That kid will never amount to anything; he can’t even do long division.”
Eventually, though, I did learn long division. I studied enough algebra to understand that division is the inverse of multiplication, that dividing by two is the same as multiplying by one-half. If I multiply two and one-half, I get one. The two numbers are inverses of each other.
Division, most of the time, produces a smaller number. It makes things smaller. When I divide ten by two, I get five. It’s smaller.
I read article after article that talk about how divided we are as a nation, and that permeates our communities and churches. It appears we can find difference in anything, which is not bad until we fixate on difference in ways that make us suspicious and even fearful. When we set our attention only on things that divide us, our circles get smaller. Groups get smaller. Communities get smaller. Families get smaller.
However, remember that I said, “most of the time division produces a smaller number?” Sometimes it doesn’t. Grab a calculator, pick a number, and divide it by a number less that one. The result is a bigger number. If you divide five by one-half (0.5), you get ten. Division and multiplication are inverses. Dividing by one-half is the same as multiplying by two.
The inverse of focusing on difference is attention to what we share. Whenever I greet a congregation on behalf of Kentucky’s Disciples, I talk about how we are different as congregations. I lightly explain how we are different as people, and I conclude by saying, “But we are one church.”
We are one church when we focus on the things we share, the things that unite us. We are one church when we remember some of what it means when we put a chalice on the church sign and use those parentheses. We recall things like the rejection of creeds as tests of fellowship and the importance of scripture. We affirm that we are congregational yet connectional.
We value an educated clergy. Still, we lift the leadership of laity in all aspects of church: worship and teaching, administration, spiritual and pastoral care. When we worship together, laity lead at the table, consecrating with their prayers the elements that we share.
These values and characteristics serve as our inverse of division. They draw us together, making us larger, stronger, better, more complete.
Kentucky’s Disciples are also made stronger, better, and more complete by the presence of five congregations in formation. Like the other 200 Kentucky congregations, these communities are different, but they are united to one another and to us by those same values.
These new congregations are making new Disciples and new disciples. They learn the values that unite us, the inverse of division, through the mentoring and support of the Christian Church in Kentucky’s new church team, led by Rachel Nance Woehler and Syvoskia Bray Pope.
Your gifts and your congregation’s gifts to the Pentecost Offering bless, support, and encourage these congregations. Your generosity provides Spark, Ignite, and Sustain grants. Your sharing is reflected in the new church team and its work. You, Kentucky Disciples, make this inverse of division possible.