Unite Boston connects Christian churches across the Hub

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/05/20/unite-boston-connects-christian-churches-across-the-hub/

BOSTON – In a society often riven over politics and religion, Christians in New England shouldn’t be expected to agree on everything and they don’t.

There are 700 churches in the Boston metro area alone, according to the Emmanuel Gospel Center’s directory. They range in flavor from Southern Baptist to African Methodist Episcopal to Roman Catholic to Russian Orthodox. Some churches get even more specific, such as Korean Methodist congregations in Cambridge and Boston.

As she aims to connect these disparate centers of Christian worship, Kelly Steinhaus has her work cut out for her.

Steinhaus, 31, moved to Boston from Arizona in 2008 to pursue her interests in competitive rowing. But not long after she arrived in the city, she said her direction changed.

“A year in, I woke up and all my passion for rowing was gone,” she said Thursday. “Through prayer, I was sensing that I was in Boston for something else, and God had a different plan for my life here.”

With so many churches in the Hub, Steinhaus said she thought that more of the congregations could work together and represent “the function of each part of the body” of the Christian faith.

Working with a friend, Steinhaus started a weekly newsletter in 2009 that they titled simply, “Unite Boston.” It listed church events happening around the city, aiming to connect pastors and congregants from each with one another. Within a few months, they had more than 1,000 subscribers.

Steinhaus realized they had touched a nerve.

As the information they collected expanded beyond the capacity of a weekly newsletter to present, Unite Boston volunteers created a website in 2011 and formed a more formal nonprofit organization in 2012.

Still, bringing unity to such a diverse set of churches remains a challenge. It begins with simply defining “Christian” churches. To Steinhaus, that includes all those that profess a belief in Jesus Christ.

“For some people, that’s more broad than they would like,” the Brookline resident said. “It’s been a challenge for sure, because you think people could agree on Christianity.”

But, she sees her task as simply to “bring together those who are followers of Jesus Christ.”

Another challenge has been in getting churches to work together. Some pastors view other churches as competitors rather than collaborators, Steinhaus said. She respectfully disagrees.

“Another church meeting down the street is not competition we’re actually on the same team,” she said. “We need to get to know each other.”

Despite the hurdles in overcoming differences, Steinhaus points to several major annual events that provide tangible evidence of progress toward her goal.

The most popular of these is 10 Days Boston, in which congregants of some 50 churches gather daily for prayer and produce worship concerts for 10 consecutive nights, with performances ranging from liturgical and contemplative to more charismatic. Unite also hosts BostonServe – a day of community service.

Now, the group has grown to 2,600 subscribers and Unite Boston connects about 200 key church leaders with one another. About half are from evangelical churches, 1-in-5 are Catholic and 15 percent come from mainline Protestant or Orthodox congregations, Steinhaus said.

While Steinhaus is the only paid employee of the organization, as its executive director, she works directly with two volunteers who handle the group’s finances and a dozen who build connections between churches in neighborhoods around the city.

They are not the only ones seeking interdenominational collaboration and communication – at least 30 other organizations work in the Boston area to unify churches based on ethnicity or having common goals such as combatting homelessness or modern-day slavery.

Steinhaus knows that the work her group is doing is important.

“Christian unity is the greatest evangelical tool that Jesus gave us,” she said.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.