Ever since the Second Vatican Council in the late 1960’s there has been great lip-service given to ecumenism – Christians cooperating with one another in a community. I have belonged to community ministerial groups in several communities. We have done some things together. We have been friendly and even personally supportive
I was not prepared for the reality in Jeffersonville. We were invited to attend the September meeting and told it was not a support group nor a gripe session. At the first meeting we attended we were warmly welcomed and after a presentation on a program available for the unemployed they began to talk about what it is they do together… We found a group where instead of being competitors it was about cooperation – what we can do together – and how we can support one another’s activities.
On Friday we sat in the hall of St Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church which was being lent to St Luke’s Church for a fund raising dinner for the United Church of Christ (whose own building was undergoing renovation) There was a large and diverse crowd of people in attendance.
Then on Sunday October 1st we joined in the celebration of World Communion Sunday – a first for me where for most of my ministry every Sunday has included the celebration of communion.. We did the Liturgy of the Word at St. Paul’s ending with the offertory hymn. We then processed the block and a half to the lawn next to the Methodist church where we met the Methodist, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian and non-denominational church pastors and people. Each group brought communion bread and communion cup. We sang a hymn and said the prayer of blessing over the bread and cup and then had 5 communion stations (one from each participating congregation). People could receive communion at any of the stations they wished.
Well over 130 people were there from the various congregations in communion with one another as well as with their Lord and savior. It was marvelous, messy and chaotic.
But that was not all. By happenstance it was also the Sunday closest to the feast of St Francis of Assisi. So we gathered again at 5 pm at First United Presbyterian Church for the Annual Blessing of the Animals which the downtown churches also do together. Dogs, a brave cat and lots of people from different traditions came together to acknowledge being part of creation while asking God to bless our animal companions.
Today we met again as downtown pastors. We eagerly listened to guests talk about ministry to and for the homeless, and a program to encourage tobacco smoking cessation. We planned the thanksgiving service and left to go do our ministries.
We are living together as Christian pastors and Christian neighbors; supporting other ministries in real and active ways; enjoying what we share in common. It is right and it is real.