I’ve told you before how much I love our annual “4 Amarillo” week. This past week was our fifth annual week of service projects, worship, and ice cream with the combined membership of the Christian families at First Baptist, First Presbyterian, Polk Street United Methodist, and us Church of Christers at Central. And it just never gets old.
This year we came together to host Bible block parties for the kids at the Astoria Park apartments in the San Jacinto neighborhood and at the Baptist church community center in the Eastridge neighborhood. And the more hearty among us transformed a vacant lot on South Kentucky Street into a community garden.
What a blessed joy to work side-by-side with these faithful disciples of Jesus. Our congregations worship a little differently, our churches are structured a little differently, and our denominations have different understandings of some key points of doctrine. But none of that keeps us from being united in spirit and purpose, in working together so that more of God’s will is done in Amarillo as it is in heaven, and pointing as one people to our Lord Jesus as the hope of the world.
I thank God for the blessings of being at Central in Amarillo, Texas at this exact time in history. I praise him that my children are being raised in a church that sees beyond our worship preferences and doctrinal differences and looks to the unity of all followers of Christ. I’m so grateful and blessed to participate in these ecumenical partnerships that we might not be able to pull off in many other places. And I hope and pray our “4 Amarillo” alliance serves as an inspiring witness to our city and beyond that our God really is who he says he is, that he’s bigger than all our differences, and that his Son truly is the Prince of Peace.
I miss having Burt Palmer around. The senior pastor at Polk Street has become a dear friend to me. His quick humor and dry wit, his awkward bike shorts, those nasty half-water-half-diet-coke cocktails he ordered at Burger Bar, his focused leadership, his faithful encouragement and spot-on advice, his commitment to our “4 Amarillo” partnership — all of that matters deeply to me. But the Lord has moved him to Kingwood down in Houston (If you want to be a blessing to Burt, you might send him mosquito nets, a case of OFF!, and a dehumidifier). Burt was a vital part of our friendship among the four pastors and an ardent pusher of “4 Amarillo.” I jokingly told the Polk Street UMC leadership group at one of their meetings that their new guy would have to agree to eat with us once a month and pick up the tab every fourth time. They assured me that their commitment to “4 Amarillo” was bigger and went deeper than Burt’s presence in their pulpit.
Wow. That’s a great thing, huh?
My hope is that what we’re doing together among our four churches is much bigger and deeper than any of us; that this kind of unity and purpose as a testimony to the truth of Christ Jesus transcends all our personalities and leadership styles and subsequent generations of disciples; that this somehow serves as an example for other groups of churches to follow in the future, all over the Texas panhandle, throughout the Southwest, and around the world.