This week I’m offering prayers of thanksgiving for God’s gift of ecumenism. Pronounced e kyo͝o’ mə nizəm, it may sound like a funny word, but funny sounding or not, the ecumenical advances within Christ’s church is, I believe, the way we witness and enjoy a modern day movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Not unlike those faithful believers in Acts 2 who experienced the Holy Spirit on that day of Pentecost, today, the Universal Christian Church enjoys the presence of the Holy Spirit through the gift of believers speaking to each other across a different type of language barrier—the language of denomineese, with all its various dialects. Ecumenism allows Christ-follows from various faith traditions to come together as brothers and sisters in the family of God through their common tongue of God’s love language, even when our liturgies look and sound different, our interpretations of certain doctrines don’t line up and our clergy dress differently.
In that vein, I am offering prayers of thanksgiving for our Summer Book Study which ended this past week. Over the course of the second half of July and the first half of August, Good Shepherd hosted an adult study class dedicated to reading and discussing Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book Christianity’s Family Tree: What Other Christians Believe and Why. With eleven participants, including two post-confirmation youth and one visitor, the desire to listen, discuss, learn and contemplate was ever-present. How refreshing it was to be able to examine other Christian denominations, not from a perspective of attempting to discover what’s wrong with them so we can highlight what’s right with us, but rather from a perspective of ascertaining what it is the Holy Spirit may want us to understand and dare I say, consider incorporating into our own faith journeys.
As I mentioned, the class included a visitor. I would like to express my gratitude to Kelly Frilot, a Roman Catholic, for boldly and graciously joining us. Kelly provided an added dimension to our class simply by being who the Lord made her to be and I believe all who attended were more richly blessed by Kelly’s ability to offer us “reformed Protestants” an alternate lens through which to examine questions and seek answers.
Finally, today I am offering prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessing me with the chance to have participated in a recent ecumenical meeting in our city. In late July, Grace Lutheran Church on Canal Blvd. played host to a gathering of the local chapter of Interfaith Communications International. I have been blessed to have been a participant in the wonderful organization for several years and recently, the founding director, Dr. William Mackintosh challenged the clergy of this organization to encourage participation by laity. The theme of the July meeting focused on the topic of “From Conflict to Communion” with an eye toward planning the commemorations of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Modeled after the Catholic-Protestant International Commission’s efforts to bring Christians from across denominations together as brothers and sisters in our Lord, the meeting featured some incredibly gifted speakers including Bishop Michael Rinehardt of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Father Buddy Noel of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In my attempt to meet Rev. Mackintosh’s challenge of bringing laity to the meeting, I was nearly unsuccessful as each Good Shepherd lay leader I spoke to had scheduling conflicts. Then, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I asked Council if I could invite our Roman Catholic friend Kelly Frilot to accompany me as Good Shepherd’s guest. Learning about ecumenism is one thing, but opening up to the Holy Spirit’s direction on ecumenism is extremely powerful and I close this week’s gratitude journal offering Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 2:14 which say ”…thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”