Ecumenism was a hope-filled buzzword, certainly old in concept but given a re-birth in the optimistic years following World War II — the war which our fathers fought and came home hoping their sons would not have to fight, only to have those sons and daughters go off to Vietnam, Southwest Asia, and now their grandsons and granddaughters going as well…
But I divert from my true purpose — ecumenism, as you may know, is the level of cooperation between churches of different denominations.
Ideally, it includes diverse religions, but it certainly includes denominational patterns.
This Sunday, in the mainline Protestant world, is world wide communion. On this first Sunday of October, mainline Protestant churches across the globe gather to celebrate the sacrament on a common declaration of faith.
I have to admit, I found this fact a whole lot more impressive before I realized that Episcopalians and Lutherans celebrate communion weekly anyway. Nevertheless …
As I recently told an elder (that means ruling officer, in the Presbyterian language; it has nothing to do with age) there is a reason why we have different types of churches with different worship patterns, musical modes and even size and government forms. We are all just not the same, and what suits the spirituality of one person may not work for another. There is a spiritual home for everyone, and I believe the Creator’s criteria is largely based on sincerity.
That being said, it is still of import to remember our common ground, our common faith and our common hope. Ironically, the sacraments of Eucharist and baptism have probably caused more bloody noses among fellow believers than perhaps any other issue. (I mean that literally; there’s a story, true or perhaps not, that Martin Luther once punched a fellow clergy in the nose over the interpretation of Holy Communion.)
As an Army chaplain, I was oath-bound to go to bat for the religious rights of soldiers and, occasionally, those of government civilians who happened to be under my care. This is one of our Constitutional rights, and within the mission of military chaplains is the monitoring and enforcement of it.
This day is of meaning for Christians of all persuasions, as mainline Protestants come together and join, not only with our fellows in that realm, but with our Catholic cousins who, of course, celebrate the Lord’s Supper at every Mass.
Looking back at the hope-filled world that gave birth to Worldwide Communion, perhaps one day its motivating dream of peace will become reality.