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My life is bound up more deeply with the ecumenical movement than I previously realized. For example, many years ago as a high school student, I spent a lot of time at the YMCA, the Young Men’s Christian Association. It was near our home, and I was aware my father had long been involved in the ‘Y,’ so it was comfortable for me to hang out there, especially to play basketball.

I didn’t know much at that time of the YMCA’s history as one of the important formative actors in the early ecumenical movement. Along with the YWCA and the World Student Christian Federation, these were important pan-denominational organizations that spurred the growth of the movement. 

One of the countless programs offered by the YMCA held my attention: “Youth in Government.” I participated in many meetings at my local Y to plan for our participation in the program and in my senior year in high school I was elected youth governor of the state of Illinois. The Y intentionally educated and formed young people to be responsible and active citizens. I benefited from that ministry. 

There are a seemingly infinite number of ministries and programs that have sprung from the cooperative efforts of ecumenism: mission efforts, disaster and relief ministries, programs for children, youth, and families, educational work, community organizing, health care, advocacy for justice and peace; the list goes on and on.

The hymn says, “My flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation, I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.” I’ve been blessed to be part of this flow. After college, I worked for the Pacific Conference of Churches, based in Fiji. What a blessing it is to have had my first full-time job be in the ecumenical community.

As we approach Easter, we Christians remember that it is a vision of what can be that binds us together. During Lent, we seek to shed our selfishness and greed and self-centeredness and make room for a new creation. We repent of our brokenness and work for reconciliation with one another and with God. 

God keeps calling and inviting us to join the journey–which takes time. Another favorite hymn of mine sings, “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together, Lord, bind us together, bind us together with love.” 

Amidst a discouraging atmosphere in which the president insults people on an hourly basis, and gun violence, Islamophobia, racism, and a thousand other ills afflict us, it can be hard to see the many ways we are connected with one another.

But, I have to reflect and be thankful. In recent days, I have been part of a wonderful, intentional church-based conversation called “race matters.” Today, I hosted the general secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (pictured with me above) and learned of his work in forging a national dialogue aimed at securing a better future for his nation. A year ago, I was sleepless with anticipation for the amazing “ACT Now to End Racism” rally we held on the National Mall in Washington, DC. 

Lent allows us to make room for the resurrection that has come — and is still to come. The resurrection shows us that no matter how dark it seems, there is always hope. It is through our common efforts and with God’s blessing that so much good has happened and will continue to happen.

Jim Winkler and Rev. Kenneth Mtata surrounded by ecumenical faith leaders