Monday, May 02, 2011

Lutherans and Episcopalians together

On the occasion of the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Full Communion: Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church.

This weekend Bishop Mark Hanson attended our synod assembly. He stayed until late Saturday, when he flew to the border of Canada and the U.S. for joint worship services on both sides of the border celebrating the full communion of the four churches. This pastoral letter marks the occasion.

I wasn't aware of this anniversary. However, Lowell Grisham, rector, St. Paul's Episcopal of Fayetteville and I, having already begun conversations on how to live out our full communion agreement with each other, had arranged for him to do so to be our preacher and presider in my absence for synod assembly. It was pure serendipity that he was preaching and presiding on the 10 anniversary. There is beauty in that serendipity.

The full ramifications of this didn't dawn on me until I receive an e-mail Monday morning from one of our members. Here's what Tom wrote, reprinted with his permission:

Wanted to share something with you.   I couldn’t believe how meaningful it was to me to have  the Eucharist administered by our Rev. Grisham.   This isn’t a comment about his sermon or anything but it took the intellectual truth that we are all the same church and slapped me in the face with reality. I often think of the church as good shepherd and focus on good shepherd and what our congregation does and can do.   For some reason Sunday, I felt the church was much more than good shepherd church or the ELCA or even those two denominations.   I can’t call it an Epiphany because I knew the church was all of us but it sure made it meaningful in a very real way.  

If anyone else had this same feeling, it might not be a bad idea for you to preach one Sunday a year at St. Paul’s and administer the Eucharist and have Rev. Grisham preach at Good Shepherd on that same day. We thought it would be a cool way to remind everyone that the church is often bigger than what we focus upon.  

There is something about the visible expression of unity, and the exchange of ministers from different communions, that simply preaches, in and of itself, above and more deeply than any words or written agreements can communicate. Here is Christ's body, here is Christ's blood, and in receiving it we are united in Christ.

Thank you to Tom for helping me comprehend this in an even more significant way, and I promise that we will pursue his suggestion. In fact, our first ecumenical service together as two congregation will be on the Feast of Ascension, June 2nd, at GSLC with myself as preacher and Lowell as presider. Praise God.

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