In 1965, Burt Bacharach penned a song, set to a lilting waltz tempo, that would become emblematic of the longings of the decade: “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Originally sung by Jackie DeShannon, the song’s introduction in the turbulent 1960s was no accident. Bacharach wrote in his autobiography that he had the tune and most of the words composed for several years before he could finally assemble the song. The strife that was ripping at the seams of the fabric of our country seemed insurmountable.
Fifty-five years later, societal turbulence has returned, full of force and fury. But we have known this for a few years now. And for a good many of us, the emotional and spiritual fatigue of chaotic and divisive societal times can be overwhelming. Add in the stress of the current global COVID-19 pandemic and you have the perfect Molotov cocktail of anger, discord, and disunity that threatens to burn down relationships, both with others and even within the church.
As the Apostle Paul writes his first letter to the church in Corinth, they, too, were in a difficult place. Competing factions had arisen within the church over a laundry list of controversies: the value of human wisdom versus divine wisdom, the nature and value of spirituality, egregious forms of personal misconduct especially among leaders, marriage and sexual relations, the primacy of social status, how followers of Jesus interacted with other religious groups especially in regards to hospitality and food, the nature and value of Christian freedom, orderly worship, the value and ranking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the role of prophetic speech, the functioning of the Body of Christ, the meaning of resurrection, and the use of church offerings for other congregations’ well-being. Any of these controversies sound familiar?
In the midst of addressing these controversies, Paul writes perhaps the most famous chapter in all of the New Testament, 1Corinthians 13. Thanks to its popularity as a wedding reading, “The Love Chapter” has been embraced by many of us as an example of how we are to love others, which Paul calls “the more excellent way.” After his litany describing love, Paul reminds us that three key components of life remain — faith, hope, and love— and that the greatest is love. But oftentimes we do not connect the beginning of 1 Corinthians 14:1 to this reading. I really like how the Revised Standard Version translates this beginning, “make love your aim.” Not Christian orthodoxy, not political party affiliations, not social status; no, make love your aim.
In this issue of Visions, we are telling the stories of sisters and brothers within CBF/GA life who are making love their aim. The roles of chaplaincy and pastoral counseling are often under-utilized and under-publicized in our congregations and communities.
Chaplains are those caregivers and spiritual guides we may find in healthcare, workplace, educational, and military settings, who make love their aim by ministering to Christians of every denomination as well as people from all faith backgrounds, or even those who claim no faith. They are present in the joys of life and also in heart-wrenching moments of sorrow. CBF serves as an endorser of chaplains and pastoral counselors, giving them support and credentialing. Recently, Renée Owen, was named as the endorser and director of CBF’s chaplaincy and pastoral counseling work. You will be introduced to Renée and the good work she is undertaking at CBF. You will also hear from chaplains and pastoral counselors around our state about their work, their experiences, and how congregations can support them.
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No not just for some, but for everyone.”
Burt Bacharach was correct in the 1960s and he is still correct today: we need love. I am grateful that CBF/GA can partner with and support chaplains and pastoral counselors who are making love their aim in a variety of settings around our state. I am also grateful for the multitudes of partner congregations and individual supporters of CBF/GA who are making love their aim. There is still more of the love of God to spread around our state and world. I hope you will join us in this good Gospel work.