We're All in This Together

By Rev. Phil Dieke

This Sunday we begin Chapter 9 of our yearlong series Unfold. Chapter 9 is titled “Together.”


Take a moment to reflect on what this word means.
What does “together” make you think of?
Who do you think of when you hear this word?

I’ll be totally honest, I can’t think of the word “together” without thinking about High School Musical and the song “We’re All in This Together." I’m too old to say I grew up with High School Musical, and yet this song occupies a lot of my brain space.

Nonetheless, beyond Zac Efron, there is something about this idea of “together.” Since I started working at WRUMC in June of 2020 as the Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Digital Ministry, I have been defining discipleship as relationship. Don’t get me wrong, discipleship is more than just relationship. And yet, I fully believe discipleship is founded in relationship, and relationship is wrapped up in our togetherness. 

The pandemic has shown us that the experience of togetherness is about more than just proximity. For nearly 18 months we spent time together while we were physically distant. And yet, now that we are emerging out of this pandemic (recognizing this pandemic is not over and COVID-19 is still very much devastating lives and killing people) there seems to be a desire to once again share proximity. We have been together in digital spaces, now there is a growing desire to be together in physical spaces. From time to time, when the situation arises, we will take digital togetherness, but the preference appears to be in-person togetherness. 

For many this is a whole new opportunity. After 2+ years of laying low, they are excited to get involved, get connected, be together in person. For others, specifically those spread across the country, and even the world, being together as a church community will look a bit different. They may never physically walk into 1450 Old Gate Ln, serve at Owenwood, or join a dinner gathering in a church member’s home. But that doesn’t mean they are not a part of who we are as White Rock UMC. It means they simply live out togetherness a little differently. The beauty of togetherness is that it is a way of being in the world, a way of operating. Proximity plays a role, but a not nearly as important a role as intentionality…

What do I mean by this?

Many of us gather together on Sunday mornings for a shared experience of worship, be that in person or online. And yet, it is easy to show up on Sunday, sit in our pew or stream on our TV, and never have an interaction with another person. Now hopefully you are at least welcomed by one of our greeters, but beyond a greeting, you can sneak into worship and sneak out with minimal or relatively no connection, no togetherness. We may worship “together,” and yet miss the opportunity for togetherness at the same time.

This is true for more than just worship. This is the reality of all interactions. Again, relationship is about more than just proximity. Imagine a friendship where all you did was come together, but never asked a questions of one another. Never checked in about the well-being of the other. Never invited or took the opportunity to engage in real and sometimes vulnerable conversation. Never really connected. Technically you’d be “toghether,” but there wouldn’t be a lot of togetherness there. The relationship would never grow beyond simple proximity.

So how do we remedy this?

We as a church are committed to opportunities and experiences that lead to greater togetherness! Don’t get me wrong, the 50-60 minutes of worship may not be the best place to grow a relationship. However, there are opportunities for connection and all it takes is a little intentionality. Beyond worship we have a variety of Sunday School classes and small group gatherings where people grow in relationship, as they also grow in their understanding of God as well. We have choirs and a folk band where people grow in relationship while also sharing their musical gifts. We have a multitude of volunteer opportunities where people grow in relationship as they teach our children and youth, distribute diapers at Owenwood, deliver communion to our homebound members, and on and on.

And don’t forget about our ways to connect digitally as well. The chat feature in worship truly is an opportunity for connection. I see people connecting with one another from far and wide each Sunday morning when they engage the chat space. Similarly, if you have yet to download our church app, you can do so here. In the app you can find out about upcoming events, and you can actually connect with people through the group feature which has… you guessed it, a chat feature.

There are lots of ways connection can happen, lots of opportunities to be together, but again togetherness is about more than just proximity, it is about intentionality. As we journey through Chapter 9, I’d like to invite you to consider not only when and where we are gathering together (proximity), but how we are gathering together. 

How are you spending the time?
How are you engaging those you do share space with? 

My hope is Chapter 9 will transform not only how we spend our time together, but also how each of us spends time with anybody. As we engage in conversation, ask bold and beautiful questions, take the risk of being vulnerable with one another, may our hearts and minds be opened to truly see one another, to know more than just the name of the person in close proximity… to invest in their unfolding story.
This is what it means to be in relationship.
This is what it means to grow in discipleship.
This is what it means to be the church.

After all… we’re all in this together.

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