by Eileen Lambert
On November 26, 2017, St. Thomas of Canterbury will serve brunch to food-challenged citizens at St. Martin’s Hopeworks (formerly St. Martin’s Hospitality Center) in downtown Albuquerque. Canterbury was instrumental in founding St. Martin’s in the 1980’s and has been cooking and serving brunch on Sunday mornings since the early 1990’s.
It takes approximately 10-12 people to buy, cook and serve food for 200 to 300 people. A typical menu consists of milk, juice, eggs, beans, tortillas, assorted casseroles and fruit, with plenty of salsa and hot sauce offered. Coffee is provided by St. Martins. One month ahead of each Sunday service, a sign-up sheet is posted on the bulletin board in Becket Hall. All interested parties are invited to donate food, donate money to purchase supplies, prepare casseroles, and/or to cook and serve down at the Center.
A few of us meet at 7:00AM that morning at Canterbury to load the food and take it down to the Center. The remaining volunteers arrive at the Center between 7:30 and 8:00 AM to cook eggs and prepare for the meal, which is served at 8:30. We clean up the kitchen (wash dishes, wipe down the stove and countertops, etc.) and are generally finished in time to attend the 10:00 mass at St. Thomas.
All are welcome to participate in whatever way they would like! Children and their friends are especially welcome – most of Canterbury’s children have been valued members of our volunteer group over the years. For more information, please contact Eileen Lambert at 265-2269 or at email@example.com.
Last Thursday morning we packed up two cars from Canterbury, and your Rector (me), our Vestry Sr. Warden (Joe Lane), our Vestry Jr. Warden (Dorothy Treadwell), our two elected convention delegates (AnneMarie Werner-Smith) and our elected convention alternate (Warren Smith) headed down to El Paso for our Annual Diocesan Convention. After only a few mishaps (like your rector getting pulled over by the cops, and not knowing where her husband keeps the registration in his mini-van) we made it safely to the El Paso Marriott for the Convention.
What happens at Convention? Lay delegates (the Jr. & Sr. Wardens from each congregation and elected delegates) and clergy delegates (all the canonically resident clergy in the diocese) meet with the Bishop and his staff for two days of fellowship, formation, and business.
FELLOWSHIP: It's pretty fun to take a road trip with your fellow church members. I learned all sorts of things I never knew about the Canterbury delegation in 8 hours in the car! It's also a treat to get to spend time with and get to know clergy and lay leaders from other congregations throughout the diocese.
FORMATION: We've had fascinating plenary speakers at convention for the past three years: Richard Rohr (2015), Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (2016) and this year theologian, scholar, and storyteller Megan McKenna.
BUSINESS: The "business" of convention involves electing clergy and lay persons to serve on various diocesan committees and delegations; approving the diocesan budget for the coming year; receiving reports on various diocesan missions and ministries, and voting on various resolutions pertaining to the life of the Diocese. This year we passed two major resolutions, one recommending an annual commemoration of military hero Ted Howden each December in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and one urging all congregations and diocesan institutions to complete a church disaster plan prior to the 2018 convention. The Bishop announced that, upon his death, the majority of his estate will be gifted to the Diocese to support the eventual construction of a Ted Howden Memorial Chapel at the Bosque Center (our Diocesan Office & Conference Center in Albuquerque.) The most controversial item on the agenda was the proposed budget, which will include a modest increase in the "Fair Share" each congregation will pay to the Diocese. In 2018 Canterbury's "Fair Share" payment to the diocese will equal 14.75% of our total income (~$25,000 for Canterbury for the year.) Opposition was fierce. Don't be surprised if the Bishop wrangles me into serving on the Diocesan Budget Committee in 2018. That's what happens when you stand up and speak out.
Our next big diocesan event will be a special convention at St. John's Cathedral on May 5th, 2018, at which certified clergy and lay delegates will elect the next bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Our new bishop will be consecrated on November 3rd, 2018.
Church governance and politics were all completely new to me when I was ordained almost 8 years ago. I had never served on a vestry. I had never attended a convention. Heck, I had never even participated in Student Council! But I'm slowly but surely getting the hang of it and beginning to understand the value, importance, and even beauty of "taking my place in the councils of the church."
If you'd like to learn more about church governance first hand, I invite you to consider offering your gifts as a candidate for vestry, deanery representative, or convention delegate at our next annual meeting at Canterbury. (NOTE: We like to have our slate of candidates in place by December 1st in preparation for the annual meeting in January, so if you're interested in running, please talk to Joe Lane, Dorothy Treadwell, or Sylvia+ ASAP.)
I may get in trouble with the vestry for saying this, but I don't think that stewardship has anything to do with church budgets. I believe that stewardship is the way we respond to God's love for us-- using our gifts. All of our gifts. The gifts that Jesus most often spoke about to His followers were financial gifts. Giving back financially to the temple, to widows, and to other people in need. One of Christ's phrases was "God loves a cheerful giver." If church members give because they've been brow beaten to give more for the budget, they're probably not cheerful. Christ also talked a lot about tithing, by which he meant giving 10% of your income.
That is a scary thought. If your budget looks like mine did when I began to increase my giving, suddenly jumping up 10% just won't work. However, every one can give a little more than they're giving now. Even if it's just two dollars a month. The point is that God will take care of you, if you trust him. As someone who sits in the same pews you do, I can tell you I have never had to do without anything I needed, because I increased my giving. (I didn't get some "wants", but I lacked for nothing I needed) This type of giving--slowly increasing the amount-- helps you to increase your trust in God.
God has never let my husband nor me down. It takes trust in God, to tithe. I suspect that's why Jesus was so adamant--He just wants us to trust His Father. Each time you increase your giving and discover you don't fall flat on your face; you learn that you can trust Him a little more. The more you trust Him, the more He sheds his bountifulness on you.
I have a memory of a gentlemen named Buzz in one of churches we went to many years ago. Buzz always got nervous as we approached the Sunday of the parable of rich young man. Folks who know me know that I can be rather outspoken. This trait has been described in other words, but "outspoken" is perhaps the most polite. Anyway, in an adult forum Buzz, never a happy person, asked "Was this 10% before or after taxes?" I responded "Buzz, It doesn't matter because you don't pay 10% after taxes so why worry about before taxes."
Why on earth would I include this snarky story? Mostly because I want to tell you that of the many people I know who tithe "after taxes", most of them eventually change to "before taxes" because they are giving joyfully. Isn't that the goal of the Christian life. Joyfulness through trust/faith.
How can it hurt to include our Church budget in some of the money you give joyfully--it doesn't have to be all of your donations. Our beloved Canterbury deserves our best. But I don't think stewardship has anything directly to do with church budget. Increasing the budge is merely a byproduct. I believe in a stewardship where we happily, weekly respond to God's love for us.
-Candy Porter, Canterbury Member (10AM)
If you were in church on Easter, you might have noticed new banners on the walls. Here's the story behind the banners:
Canterbury is blessed to count many artists among our members. Ruth Meredith (who created the cut paper stations of the cross that were hanging in the atrium throughout Lent) is one of Canterbury's artists. Ruth created four stunning paintings of the Archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel) that were hanging in the Parish Hall. Early in 2017, these paintings disappeared from the Parish Hall. We were devastated! Luckily, Ruth had taken high quality photos of the paintings, so we were able to use the digital images to create four new Archangel banners for the church! How appropriate. Just as we move from the grief and loss of Good Friday into the celebration of new, resurrected life at Easter, so we moved from the grief and loss of the stolen paintings into the celebration of their appearance in a new, transfigured form at Easter.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
MICHAEL:Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel. The idea that Michael was the advocate of the Jews became so prevalent that, in spite of the rabbinical prohibition against appealing to angels as intermediaries between God and his people, Michael came to occupy a certain place in the Jewish liturgy.
In the New Testament Michael leads God's armies against Satan's forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan. In the Epistle of Jude Michael is specifically referred to as "the archangel Michael". Christian sanctuaries to Michael appeared in the 4th century, when he was first seen as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil.
Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In the Old Testament, he appears to the prophet Daniel, explaining Daniel's visions (Daniel 8:15–26, 9:21–27). In the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and the Virgin Mary, foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively (Luke 1:11–38). In the Book of Daniel, he is referred to as "the man Gabriel", while in the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel is referred to as "an angel of the Lord" (Luke 1:11).
Raphael is an archangel of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam who in the Christian tradition performs all manners of healing. In Islam, Raphael is the fourth major angel; in the Muslim tradition, he is known as Israfil. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit, which is accepted as canonical by Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglo-Catholics, as useful for public teaching by Anglicans and considered useful and good to read by Lutherans. Raphael is generally associated with the angel mentioned in the Gospel of John as stirring the water at the healing pool of Bethesda.
On Sunday, March 26th, a team from Canterbury prepared and served breakfast for a hungry crowd of ~200 at St. Martin's Hospitality Center. Whenever we show up in the world to serve, God is there to meet us with unexpected questions, insights, and blessings! Below is a short reflection by Canterbury member Warren Smith on his experience of serving at St. Martin's this month. I hope you'll plan to join us for our next Sunday at St. Martin's--May 28th (Memorial Day Weekend.) Peace, Sylvia+
by Warren Smith
When I was in the serving line with others at St. Martin's on Sunday, an old friend called out to me from the floor. "Hi! How ya doin'?" It was Donovan Bauer, a homeless man who has been coming to St. Martin's almost since it opened. I walked out to greet him and introduced him to Anne Marie. "Have you got a place to stay, Donovan?" I asked. "Outside" he said with an expansive gesture. Donovan seemed in a good mood though the worse for wear, and he seems to have lost most of his teeth.
Seeing Donovan made me think of Marsha Behrends, another old friend and Canterburian who died far too soon of an illness many years ago. Marsha was a dedicated worker at St. Martins and had a special interest in Donovan Bauer; she had written an article about him for a St. Martin's newsletter, noting that he was taking classes at Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute and that he had a hopeful future. She ended with something like, "the end of his story has not yet been written." I remember that Donovan had spoken to me about that article and said he didn't agree with it, that Marsha had not really understood what made him tick, whatever that meant.
Now here we are all these years later, Marsha, bless her, is long gone, and Donovan, bless him too, is still sleeping on the streets. Isn't it funny what happens to our plans? Sometimes we think we know what is going on and we really don't at all, God has other ideas, or he takes our words, like those of Marsha, and twists them in an unexpected direction. Meeting Donovan has given me much to think about.
by Janet Steele
Dear fellow parishioners,
As we enter Lent and begin preparing for Holy Week this year, I would like to share some thoughts I had about Holy Week last year in 2016:
Knowing that this was Sylvia's+ first Lent, Holy Week and Easter with us, I did not have a clue what to expect. I can only say that I was completely blown away by it all!
The Seder that Don and Susan gift us with every year was as beautiful and meaningful as ever. I find that it grounds me in our Jewish roots and helps me reflect on things in the far past that are still alive today for us.
The Maundy Thursday service was absolutely beautiful. It blended our traditional Canterbury customs with Sylvia's+ energetic sense of liturgy and became a service that was reflective and deeply satisfying. Our musicians did a fantastic job of including old and young and people from our various services who all came together to provide music for us without taking anything away from the always magnificent offerings that Edwina does. The stripping of the altar was done in reflective silence as part of the service, which made its impact even more profound and beautiful. Jesus really did leave the supper and the garden and went away!
I attended the three hour service for Good Friday and came away with the deepest sense of the meaning of Good Friday without feeling that my emotions were played with or falsely engaged. The meditations were totally authentic and were so true to the people offering them. The one chant which we used and repeated with every meditation set a tone that included us in the mystery. The lonely and hauntingly beautiful flute called us from our personal spaces to become one with the group again. My only regret was that more people were not present for it all. I kept thinking how great it would be if everyone in the parish had been there to witness and experience this beautiful afternoon which revealed so much about our God and the people following God.
I hope that we will see again this year the beautiful stations of the cross made by Ruth Meredith and fellow parishioners. They join our beloved stations of the cross in the nave to tell the old story of the crucifixion and the story that is ongoing in the world today.
I hope you'll make every effort to participate in the Seder and ALL our Holy Week services this year. I think you will be truly amazed at how much more meaningful Easter Sunday will be for you and for all of us if we spend these services in prayer with one another.
If you want to ACTIVATE
What does the Lord require of you?
In the Sermon on 1/29/17 (see bottom of this post for the sermon video) we explored these words from the prophet Micah: What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
When we see the injustice and the need in our community, our nation, and our world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The magnitude of need can lead to paralysis on the one hand, or burn out on the other. But God's love calls us in another direction. God's love calls us to walk humbly with God on a path that leads us out of paralysis and away from burnout.
As the People of God, striving to heed God’s call, we need to stay grounded:
Grounded in our Limitations
Grounded in our Power
Grounded in Community
Grounded in Prayer
As we move together into 2017, what none of us needs is ONE MORE THING—ONE MORE MEETING—ONE MORE OBLIGATION.
We don’t want Activate to be just ONE MORE THING.
We want Activate to be the central “hub” at Canterbury, where everyone can come to get grounded: Grounded in Prayer, Grounded in Community, and Grounded in Power for whatever action God might be calling us to take as we seek to do justice in the world.
Where is God calling YOU to ACTIVATE?
There are many areas of need in our world today. Just for starters, there’s:
* prison/criminal justice
* local government
* state government
* national government
But don’t get overwhelmed! The strength of the Church is that no one member can (or should) do everything! But every member can (and should) do something!
What ONE issue or project is calling most loudly to YOU today? Could you make a commitment, on behalf of the household of Canterbury, to stay informed and active around that ONE issue or project and regularly report back to the Canterbury community on how we might best PRAY, ACT, and ADVOCATE with you in support of justice in that ONE area?
Are you ready to help CANTERBURY ACTIVATE?
1. Discern your AREA OF FOCUS
If you are already passionate and active about an issue—or if you know what issue/area/project you want to make your focus in the coming months—please let us know! Just shoot Sylvia+ an email (or give her a note) that says “I’m ready to ACTIVATE! My focus is _____________”. (Examples might include: healthcare, homelessness, prison/criminal justice, immigration, refugees, racism, environmental issues, women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, gun violence, interfaith issues, local government, state government, national government, etc.) Knowing who is working on which issues can help us be good stewards of our efforts and energies, stay connected, and network effectively.
2. Join us for our MONTHLY GATHERINGS
(Our next Monthly Gathering is Tuesday, February 14th from 5-7PM)
Everyone (church members, community members, friends) is welcome to join us for our monthly ACTIVATE GATHERINGS. This is your chance to get GROUNDED in prayer, power, and community. We generally meet one Tuesday evening each month from 5-7PM.
The basic agenda for our gatherings is as follows:
5:15PM Song, Scripture, Silence
5:30PM Personal Check In
5:45PM Activate Check In
6:30PM Discussion/Follow-up/Planning or Action
6:50PM Closing Prayer & Song
6:55 PM Clean Up
3. Share your ACTIVATE UPDATES
Even if you can’t join our monthly gatherings, you can still help Canterbury ACTIVATE by communicating opportunities for Canterbury to PRAY, ACT, and ADVOCATE with you around your chosen issue/area/project. Email your updates to Sylvia+ for inclusion in Canterbury Communications (We can discuss possible additional avenues for sharing these updates, such as the Canterbury Blog, Facebook Page, Google Group, etc., if/as desired.)
Please keep your updates short, simple, and direct. (If you overwhelm us, we are less likely to act! We’re counting on one another to CURATE for us…to identify the MOST urgent opportunities for us, as the Household of Canterbury, to pray, act, and advocate on each issue.) Please email Sylvia+ your ACTIVATE UPDATES using the following format:
Subject line: ACTIVATE UPDATE.
and/or ACT: ___________________
and/or ADVOCATE: ___________________
ISSUE: LGBTQ JUSTICE
PRAY: For LGBTQ youth to experience love, support, and acceptance in their families, schools, and churches
ACT: Vote in the current APS School Board elections. Equality NM encourages you to support these LGBTQ-friendly candidates.
ADVOCATE: Sign on as a faith-community member in support of legislation to ban the harmful practice of “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ youth in NM. Sign on here.]
Sermon: 1/29/2017: WALK-HUMBLY-WITH-GOD
By Warren Smith & Anne Marie Werner-Smith
Since 2005 Canterbury has been sponsoring an outreach for the Anglican Church in Kenya, in the coastal province of Mombasa. This is an overview of the project.
We have been working under two bishops, Rt. Rev. Lawrence Dena, formerly assistant bishop of Mombasa, now Bishop of Malindi; and Julius Kalu, Bishop of Mombasa. Each of them in the course of the last decade has visited New Mexico and spoken at Canterbury.
Our first project was fundraising to help restore St. Luke’s Hospital, built in a rural area by the Christian Mission Society in the 1930’s. Once a major hospital in East Africa, St. Luke’s had fallen into disrepair and decay when we visited them in 2005. Their generator did not work and they sometimes had to operate by flashlight. Their nursing school wanted to upgrade from a certificate to a diploma school but lacked a vehicle to transport the nurses to other health facilities to do their practicum. We raised funds through Canterbury and other churches to buy a generator and a bus for the nursing school. The bus cost about the equivalent of $62,000. The hospital raised half of this on their own and about $30,000 came from churches in our diocese including St. Michael and All Angels, St. Chad’s, and Epiphany in Socorro. With this help and the use of fund raising at Convention, Deanery support and Canterbury generosity, the St. Luke’s Nursing school and Hospital are fully staffed with modern equipment, have now received certification and are running at full capacity. They have traded in the bus for a larger one. Last year we visited the hospital and were thrilled to see it thriving.
The second project was assistance to Bishop Hannington Institute, a diploma school under the direction of St. Paul’s United Theological University. Warren taught at BHI 2010-2011 and again in 2012. We have offered and continue to offer scholarships at BHI; in 2011 we bought them a copy machine which they still use as a moneymaking device; we have also bought them computers; and we enabled them to get an e-book service for their library so that they will no longer have to literally manufacture their own textbooks. Under the leadership of Dr. Martin Olando as principal BHI has become a financially sound institution and Martin has opened up fundraising sources in the UK, and as he undertakes a new building program and expands his curriculum he no longer relies so heavily on our support.
Thirdly, we began in 2012 the purchase of motorbikes for priests serving in remote areas; the first was for Fr. James, a priest who was serving several parishes in the town of Aruba in the Mombasa diocese. A motorbike can be purchased for about USD $1300. Now that Bishop Dena is now serving in the new northern province of Malindi, which borders on Somalia, we have bought three more motorbikes for his priests. This is an exciting ministry of empowerment for priests who sometimes feel in isolation or abandoned. Bishop Dena is now seeking other sources for this funding including Rev. Paul Lawson, former rector of Canterbury.
Before the end of 2016 we will make one more payment to the church in Kenya which should be enough for the purchase of another bike for Malindi and two more scholarships for BHI. We are phasing out this ministry in view of the stability of the institutions in Kenya and the greater need closer to home. We will continue to sell cloth, jewelry, and Anne Marie’s pottery at the Christmas sale in December and again at Mother’s Day. God has prepared us to move on to new challenges and Canterbury will still have an active African ministry in the Faith Alive Nigerian project of Sally Barlow and Pam Brown.
The following reflection was written by Amy Malick. Amy is a member of Canterbury, co-facilitator of Canterbury's "Activate" Team (Social Justice, Action, and Reflection Team), and the Missioner to the Displaced for the Diocese of the Rio Grande.
“Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike.” Psalm 139:11
One midnight, I watched a tiny, bent old woman walk down a sidewalk into the darkness in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. Where she goes, I follow.
I was in the city a few weeks ago for a retreat with people around the country who provide spiritual companioning and community building with people experiencing homelessness.
This night, a group of us accompanied a pastor who walks the streets of the Tenderloin from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. to be alongside people who are outside. As he explained in the orientation, they include sex workers, drug dealers and addicts, and also, people who are lonely, who work nights, insomniacs who live in the many apartment buildings in the poor neighborhood.
Night Ministry has walked these streets 365 nights a year for 52 years. Google it. The pastors sit at bars and donut shops, on stoops and streets littered with the detritus of the poor: fast food wrappers, dirty clothes, cigarette butts. They listen. They refer. They call for help. Our guide knew many of the characters we came across.
The old woman caught my eye when our group had stopped to witness two young women involved in an altercation with a man. In the noisy confusion, the old woman passed like a shadow, navigating the crowd, weaving through people on the street until the darkness swallowed her small form.
If anyone else saw her, no one paid her any mind.
I knew then, and I’ve come to know even more as time has passed, that the woman was Jesus in a distressing disguise. As I’ve learned from teachers I admire – Richard Rohr, Megan McKenna, Mother Theresa – God hides in our world in the poor and hungry, the sick and lonely, the people who sleep on mean streets. In tiny, bent old women who weave down grimy sidewalks, calling us by name.
I could never have imagined the enormity of darkness that’s become apparent in our country since the presidential election. I could never have guessed at the time that God would come to me that night, so quietly, so gently, to show me who I am, to show me the way.
I’ve always wondered whether I would have fallen in with the millions of God-fearing Germans who saw Hitler as the answer to their loss of livelihood and control after World War I. I feared I would not have risked my life to protect the people rounded up and killed in the “cleansing” that followed.
Now I know.
So much in my life and my work is in transition, as I watch the world becomes a meaner place. My own 7-year-old grandson fears the “American wall” will kill rivers and plants. My hair dresser’s 6-year-old, whose father is Latino, held out his little hands the morning after the election and asked his mama if he is black. When she said no, he asked if he and papa would be taken away. A 7-year-old knows that walls kill. A 6-year-old knows it’s dangerous here to be brown or black.
I will not be afraid. I will not despair. I take the hand of my guide, and into the darkness, where she goes, I follow
Welcome to our weekly discussion of the ways that world news, the Word of God, and our own lives intersect. The material in this post is drawn from The Wired Word (thewiredword.com). Please feel free to join in the discussion throughout the week by adding your own responses and experiences in the "comments" section (click on "comments" at the end of the post to add your comments), then continue the conversation with other members in person on Sunday at Coffee Hour! Blessings, Sylvia+
Pope Visits Sweden to Commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
In the News
On Monday, the 499th anniversary of German monk Martin Luther's posting of 95 theses on the door of the Catholic cathedral in Wittenberg, Pope Francis co-hosted an ecumenical prayer service in Sweden with leaders of the Lutheran Church. The service launches a year of celebration leading up to the quincentenary of the Protestant Reformation.
The visit by Pope Francis was particularly remarkable, since Luther's resistance to papal authority, the sale of indulgences to purchase pardon for sins, and protest against excesses and abuses within the church led to his excommunication as a heretic, the church split known as the Protestant Reformation, and decades of brutal religious wars in Europe.
While Swedish society is primarily secular, the state church is Lutheran. Since the 1500s, Catholics in Sweden suffered persecution, discrimination and even death.
In the past, Pope Francis has painted Luther as "an intelligent man" who rightly called for reform of a corrupt, worldly church that "was not a role model [but stained by] ... greed and lust for power."
At the celebration this week, the pope stated that "the Reformation helped give greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the church's life."
"We must look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness," he said, calling on Catholics and Lutherans to "mend" history.
While Catholic-Lutheran relations have been particularly marked by periods of tension and hostility in the past, Christians of all persuasions face the challenge of how to relate to those with whom they disagree.
One of the principal issues dividing Lutherans and Roman Catholics was resolved in 1999, when the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) co-signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which states in part:
In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.
Relations between Roman Catholics and Lutherans took further large strides this year with the adoption of "Declaration on the Way" by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which outlines 32 "Statements of Agreement" between Lutherans and Catholics regarding church, ministry and the Eucharist.
Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, the Catholic co-chairman of the joint task force of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the ELCA that developed the declaration, said he hoped the bishops would endorse it as well.
"Though we have not yet arrived, we have claimed that we are, in fact, on the way to unity," ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton said after the assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve the document. "After 500 years of division and 50 years of dialogue, ... this 'Declaration on the Way' helps us to realize more fully our unity in Christ with our Catholic partners, but it also serves to embolden our commitment to unity with all Christians."
Lutherans and Roman Catholics are still divided on other issues, such as the nature of the Universal Church, the authority of the pope, the role of women in church leadership, and the nature of the Eucharist (Communion).
Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the LWF, told reporters that "people feel lack of unity the heaviest around the [Lord's] table." For centuries, Christians have been barred from partaking of the Eucharist in Catholic churches (though TWW team member Heidi Mann says she's received it, simply by going forward; in her experience, priests don't stop and ask what a visitor's denomination is). But by official position, it is Catholic barring of Lutherans; Lutherans (in the LWF anyway -- not Missouri Synod and a few other conservative branches of Lutheranism) practice "open Communion."
In a joint statement issued in Lund, Sweden, this week, the Roman Catholic Church and the LWF acknowledged that this has been a source of pain especially for family members "who share their whole lives, but cannot share God's redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We long for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed" by bringing members of both churches together at the Lord's table, "no longer strangers."
Pope Francis said that while theological differences still exist, the two churches can join forces to serve the poor and refugees, and to fight persecution of Christians. A hallmark of this pope's legacy is his effort to build bridges to other parts of the Christian family, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as to people of other faiths, such as Islam and Judaism.
Rev. Jens-Martin Kruse of the Lutheran Church in Rome described the pope's approach as "walking ecumenism." In the act of "walking together," Kruse said, "we find that we have ... more in communion than we thought before."
Teresa Jodar, a resident of Stockholm who attended the celebration earlier this week, agreed. "I am a Catholic," she said. "The Reformation ... was a sad separation. But we are celebrating taking a step closer. It is wonderful that we can work together instead of thinking about all of the differences that separate us."
More on this story can be found at these links:
The Pope Commemorates The Reformation That Split Western Christianity. NPR
Reformation Day: Pope Francis Marks Luther Anniversary in Sweden. BBC News
Pope Francis, in Sweden, Urges Catholic-Lutheran Reconciliation. The New York Times
ECLA Approves Lutheran-Catholic Ecumenical Document. ECLA
Catholic-Lutheran Document Sums Up Agreements, Maps Steps to Full Unity. Catholic News Service
Declaration on the Way. ELCA
The Big Questions
1. How have relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches changed in your lifetime? Do you see the overtures for better relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church (and other Protestant groups) as a positive or a negative development? How did you arrive at your viewpoint?
Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (For context, read 133:1-3.)
This psalm exalts the virtue and pleasure that belong to people who are joined together by God's grace. In the context verses, this common life is compared to two liquids: oil and dew.
When Aaron was consecrated as a priest (Leviticus 8:12) he was anointed with a fragrant oil made of four spices, myrrh, cinnamon, cane and cassia, mixed with olive oil (Exodus 30:23-25, 30). The image is of very different substances, which, when combined, produced a rich, distinctive perfume unique to the priestly class. When God brings people together in unity from radically different backgrounds, anyone in the vicinity will notice that these people are different.
The unity of the people of God is like the fleeting morning dew, which may seem inconsequential, but which is essential to bring life to an arid land. While unity is a blessing to the people of God themselves, it is capable of blessing everyone who comes in contact with them as well.
Questions: Is it possible to be united as a church while members have significant disagreements? In church relations, how much agreement must be present between the parties for unity to exist? Are there any relationship qualities short of unity that are still godly ways to work with others for the kingdom of God?
How have you experienced the goodness and pleasure of living together in unity among God's people, in spite of differences? When have you seen a united church bring blessing and life to people beyond the walls of the church itself?
Acts 2:1, 4, 6, 11-12
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. ... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. ... And ... each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. ... "speaking about God’s deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" (For context, read 2:1-12.)
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples stayed together in Jerusalem, waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised to give them. They spent much time in prayer, and so they were still together on the day of Pentecost when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak about God's mighty acts of deliverance.
Questions: What is the significance of the fact that they spoke in many languages, rather than just in one? If they had all spoken in their own native tongue of Aramean, what do you think would have happened to their faith community? What does this event on the Day of Pentecost
Responding to the News
1. Consider visiting a service at another church, not of your present denomination, with the goal to better understand what is common and what is different. If you have already done this, consider visiting a house of worship outside the Christian faith with the same goal.
O God, in the relationship of the persons of the Trinity we glimpse the kind of oneness to which you call us as believers. Teach us to treat one another with the same kind of love and respect that flow among Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May the unity you create among us reveal your oneness to people of every tongue and nation, to the glory of your name. Amen.
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