Diversity has become the buzz word around Shalom lately. Some say it's what attracted them to this very special place. Some say it is this quality of acceptance for those with diverse beliefs that allows them to be included in this church's membership. Some feel we must strive to protect this unique characteristic of Shalom so that we will not insidiously move toward more traditional or fundamentalist dogma and requirements which often, by their very nature, produce conformity.

Most of us are comfortable addressing diversity in generalities, proclaiming†it to be desirable, even cherished. We might even credit it as THE quality that makes Shalom acceptable to those who had given-up on the church; palatable to the non-believer; welcome as an entry-level

church for those seeking to establish just where they are on their faith journey; or a place of support for those who are open to stretching themselves to experience a deeper level in their spiritual search. Thus, there are many variations in direction of interests, readiness to risk, desire to commit, and scope of needs to be met.

How does this affect me? I am faced with the realization that THE EXTENT OF MY FREEDOM IS ONLY AS GREAT AS I AM WILLING TO LOVINGLY AND RESPECTFULLY ALLOW YOURS TO BE ! When I seek to impose my will on you, I change the very climate of acceptance that I covet so much for myself.

Further, I must ask myself if I also cherish diversity in those areas in which I am most strongly invested, where my opinions and feelings allow little room for those with varied opinions and feelings. Am I able to recognize that when rationality gives way to the intensity of my feelings, I am no doubt bringing "old baggage" into the arena and am no longer dealing clearly with the subject at hand, or caringly with those people around me for whom I care. Then I might ask if getting my way is more important than helping to maintain an atmosphere for free and open, as well as caring and considerate, discussion. I recall that in other areas, less pressing to me, I value and proclaim the richness of our diversity. I cannot hope to preserve this richness if I only honor it in areas that are comfortable and non-threatening for me.

Perhaps it is best summed up with:

In Essentials, Unity

In Non-essentials, Diversity

In All Things, Charity.

And the "essentials" , for many of us, can best be encapsulated in the word, "Love".