[x_blockquote type=”left” style=”font-size: 100%;”]From the CROSS BlogA periodic check-in from our CROSS Interns, who dedicate their summer to help guide visiting youth groups as they serve in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, children’s programs, and other agencies that serve our neighbors in need.[/x_blockquote]We are more similar than we are different.

As a former high school cross-country runner, one of my favorite ministry partners of CROSS quickly became RunningWorks. Originally organized through the Urban Ministry Center, RunningWorks now operates as its own ministry, creating community and fellowship through fitness and teaching life skills. Distance running is one of the best ways to get to know someone: you are both in pain so you distract one another with stories. I learned in high school that distance running leads to powerful relationship. That is why I love RunningWorks.

RunningWorks Founder Meredith Dolhare

Every time we attend a RunningWorks practice, founder Meredith Dolhare always repeats the phrase “we are more similar than we are different” while providing personal stories testifying why she believes this statement. I spit out the same phrase to my middle schoolers at ministry sites but am often hypocritical in doing so. I still struggle to remember that everyone is our neighbor in Christ, not only does this include our homeless neighbors, but it also includes our neighbors of other faiths.

One Tuesday morning, the usual running crew trickled into RunningWorks, in addition to our CROSS group and a slew of other volunteers, two of which were Mormon women my age. My co-worker and I almost immediately began whispering about our (limited) experiences with the Mormon church, most of our knowledge unfortunately grounded in the infamous Broadway musical.

When the running started, I set off with my CROSS kids and a regular attendee of the program. Eventually, we caught up to the two Mormon volunteers. I introduced myself and began running with two girls who were on their Mission, a year and a half of service and proclamation of the faith.

I shared a bit about my double major in Geology and Religious Studies. The Religious Studies major particularly piqued their interest which gradually spiraled into me asking question after question about their faith. I quickly realized I didn’t know what Mormons believe. I had some misconstrued notion about Joseph Smith and then something about Brigham Young?

[x_pullquote type=”right” style=”font-size: 200%”]”We gone’ learn today”[/x_pullquote] Well, every day at RunningWorks, one man always says, “We gone’ learn today” and boy, did I learn that day.

For two and a half miles, I learned about the Mormon tradition. These girls shared the history of the Church, the purpose of the Mission, and central pillars of the religion. They told me of how regular members of the Church speak in worship rather than a hearing a sermon. They shared their faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We bonded over the power of music in worship. They shared their personal struggles and doubts in the faith, namely the struggle of worldly temptation. One shared her experience of being raised in the Mormon Church, the other shared her testimony of conversion. I will never forget how she told me “it gave her life a purpose.”

We are much more similar than we are different.

Upon returning to RunningWorks’ headquarters, I exchanged information with my friends, but I’m not talking about personal information. I gave them the location of an interfaith prayer room in Charlotte known as 24-7 Prayer, and they gave me a pamphlet about the Mormon Church, a link to the Book of Mormon app, and the time/place of a Mormon worship service in Charlotte. I told them I would pray for them on their journey, and they, in turn, promised to pray for me on mine.

So much more connects us than divides us: in religion, in life experience, in socio-economic status, in race, in gender, in sexuality, or any other isolating category. But that’s what CROSS is all about: CROSSing over boundaries and CROSSing out stereotypes.

-Emily Hinshaw

Emily Hinshaw is one of seven CROSS Interns living in the Cornerstone house this summer. CROSS Interns dedicate their summer to help guide youth groups as they serve in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, children’s programs, and other agencies that serve our neighbors in need.