I recently spent a week in San Antonio, Texas. I was there to represent the publishing company I work for at a preaching conference.
I had a good time.
I had a good time before I even left for San Antonio. The Atlanta airport is a fascinating place. There, all kinds of people wait to board their flights for all kinds of places. They are young, old, and middle-aged. They are families traveling with children and people traveling alone. They are of various sexual orientations. They have varying financial situations. They are sick and well. They are of many different races, ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, and religions. I got a kick out of observing them
(The most amazingly diverse collection of people with which I ever awaited a flight was in Nairobi, Kenya back in 2010. The colors, the clothes, the languages—I was amazed at humanity’s beautiful variety, which was packed tightly together in one waiting area.)
One reason I had a good time after I got to San Antonio is that it is a great place to eat. One night I had the best brisket I’ve ever tasted. Another night I had the best chili relleno (my favorite Mexican dish) I’ve ever eaten. I also had a couple of good steaks (although I must admit I’ve had better. In fact, I’ve grilled better ones myself).
Another reason I had a good time is that the preachers who assemble for this particular annual conference are a delightful bunch. They come from churches in denominations that are often referred to as “mainline.” I talked with pastors from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and the Alliance of Baptists. They came from every region of the United States and from many places in Canada. I talked with one pastor from Australia. They were women and men. They were brown, black, and white. They are committed to their calling and craft.
One day, I stopped in a German-themed establishment on the River Walk (a shopping, dining, and lodging development along the San Antonio River, which runs through the heart of the city). The waitresses were lovely Latinas dressed in German garb. A two-man band was playing German songs; one of them wore a Jamaican dreadlocks wig.
As I marveled at the sight, it dawned on me: America is already great.
And America will become even greater as we more fully embrace our ever-increasing diversity as the great gift it is.