I want to tell you about something exciting that happened recently.
Larry and I, along with Pastor Monte of Immanuel Lutheran and Pastor Gabi of St. Elias Christian Church, took part in a panel discussion at the National Workshop on Christian Unity (NWCU) held in Chicago April 14-17. Tripp Hudgins, our former Baptist pastor at Reconciler and part of the local planning committee of the NWCU, introduced our panel.
Through slides, DVD, and conversation, we gave the audience an overview of each congregation, then talked about the ecumenical work we are doing together. We conveyed the joy of our joint worship services, and our positive collaboration on a recent adult ed forum on interfaith dialogue. We talked about our joint mission statement (a work in progress) and our continuing exploration of where God is calling us as three faith communities on one campus of discipleship. We shared our belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, as Monte wrote in a recent letter to his congregation.
Gabi, Monte, Larry, and I spoke to a small but enthusiastic group that peppered us with thoughtful, energetic questions. Folks wanted to hear about Gabi's experience leading an Arabic Christian congregation. What was Monte's experience as "host" to two other congregations? Someone asked why we chose the name "Jesus Christ, Reconciler" -- what are we seeking to reconcile? Another asked us how sharing space and worship is changing our congregations. How does each congregation maintain its individuality within unity? And is this type of collaboration the wave of the future for the larger church? There were many other questions -- 50 minutes of them!
I offered a vignette about how our congregations are affecting one another. When Gabi invited me to preach at our joint worship service in Advent hosted by St. Elias, some members of St. Elias expressed reservations. They had never had a woman preach to their congregation. Gabi stood firm and said "She's going to preach." I preached, and Gabi shared that the response was very positive. A couple of other ways we are affecting each other: I remember the first time I heard Gabi chant the liturgy in Arabic, and feeling tears well up in my eyes -- it was very moving. And getting to know people at Immanuel has been wonderful for many of us at Reconciler.
Though there have been some growing pains, the pastors perceive that our work together enlarges our separate communities in ways that are healthy and strengthening. It is a gift when people of different backgrounds come together in harmony and build up the body of Christ.
Helen Lambin, a writer and long-time member of Immanuel, accompanied us to the Workshop and is submitting an article about our panel to The Lutheran newsletter. David Skidmore, canon for communications in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, attended our presentation, and we may read something about it in the Anglican Advance. We were asked to offer another panel discussion at a seminary in Hyde Park in the fall, and are excited about that prospect.
Hearing the incisive and enthusiastic questions from the audience, listening to my colleagues' answers, and finding my own, was illuminating for me. Helen shared that as an observer, it was clear that we as panelists liked one another, something that can't always be taken for granted, even among Christians.
May God continue to bless and guide Immanuel, St. Elias, and Reconciler as individual congregations and as partners in mission.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
for The Pastoral Team
The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler
For more information about the National Workshop on Christian Unity, go to www.nwcu.org
If you can help Laura set up for this Sunday's worship service, she would be very appreciative. Drop her an email or give her a call if you can.
Next Social Justice committee meeting is May 5 at 7:00 with a gathering at 6:30. Check with Jeremy about location.
Next Search Committee meeting is May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the 'Nidge.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 11, following our worship service, we will have a celebration to commemorate the birth of the Christian church, as recorded in the book of Acts.
The Fair Trade panel discussion, sponsored by the Social Justice committee, is scheduled for Thursday evening, June 5th, from 7:00 pm. to 9:00 p.m. in the Immanuel sanctuary. Mark your calendars.
Reconciler will again participate in the Celebrate Clark Street and the Glenwood Arts Festivals this summer. Talk with Larry or Laura if you would like to help set up or staff our booth, display your art, or participate in some other way. These festivals are a fun way to do outreach to the community, and spend quality time with your fellow Reconciliarites.
Immanuel is seeking interested volunteers from Reconciler to serve on the altar guild and property committees.