Focus on similarities can make big impact

Published 8:03 am Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Members of Clark County’s faith-based community gathered Sunday night for the annual community Thanksgiving service. The powerful service was very much a symbolic representation of all that the Winchester-Clark County Association of Churches aims to accomplish — unity despite doctrinal or other differences.

With this desire of unity among God’s people in mind, the AOC has been able to positively impact the community for more than 50 years.

The group was integral in founding Clark County Community Services, which helps feed local families in need, and funds the transient ministry administered through CCCS to help people stranded while passing through our community.

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They offer financial and other support to agencies like New Beginning’s pregnancy care center, which offers services to pregnant moms and families in need.

The organization, which is comprised of representatives from approximately 40 local churches, also supports causes like Habitat for Humanity, the Clark County Homeless Coalition, the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and offers chaplaincy volunteers at Clark Regional Medical Center.

Most recently, the AOC responded to its community’s needs by establishing Upward 40391, a faith-based youth basketball league. With approximately 800 to 900 young athletes registered, Upward 40391 is the largest Upward program in the state — and that’s just in its first season.

By making it a priority to focus on shared beliefs and common goals, the men and women who are part of the AOC have been able to positively impact the community in ways that extend beyond the church walls.

This message of focusing on commonalities with hopes of catalyzing change is one that our community can learn from.

As Wayne McNiel, a longtime member of the AOC and an elder at Fellowship of Believers, pointed out, “It’s been said that (Christians) agree on about 85 percent of the things in our doctrine and disagree on about 15 percent. We want to focus on that 85 percent we agree on.”

While McNiel acknowledged those numbers are “pulled out of the air,” the thought behind the analysis comes from a good place.

If we consider that we, as neighbors and citizens of Winchester-Clark County, desire about 85 percent of the same things for our community, would it be easier for us to look beyond the small difference in opinions and beliefs? Could we work side by side to accomplish those 85 percent of things that we agree would make Clark County a better place to live, work and play?

There are fundamental desires each of us have for our community: we don’t want to see anyone go hungry or cold; we want our youth to stay away from violence and drugs and turn toward education, activity and positive behaviors; we desire a remedy for the epidemic of substance abuse; we want our schools to be a safe and uplifting place to pursue a quality education; we want our elected leaders to make decisions that improve the quality of life for their constituents; we desire more businesses, more restaurants and, thus, more jobs for people who call Winchester home; and so much more.

With this shared vision for a brighter community, can we take the example of the AOC and look beyond our differences — whether they be in religion, socio-economic status, sex or gender, race or culture?

To see that a relatively small group of people have been able to make a big difference by simply looking past what makes them different is inspiring and it proves that unity despite some differences can have a big pay off.