I am honored to be part a growing friendship and spiritual collaboration among UCC and Episcopal pastors here in Western Massachusetts. At one time I might have described us at being at opposite ends of the Christian spectrum, (High Church vs Low!) but never have I found our approach to living out our Christian faith more compatible.
As one of the “pairs” of pastors working together in a town, my ecumenical partner Rev. Derrick Fetz of St. Andrew’s Episcopal and I were invited to a gathering at his church on May 23 hosted by the Right Reverend Dr. Doug Fisher, Episcopal Bishop of the Western Diocese of Massachusetts, and Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference UCC. We joined pairs of our colleagues from Stockbridge, Greenfield, Northampton and Wilbraham and our regional associate conference ministers to explore and celebrate and dream!
We opened by getting to know each other using a symbol of our ministry to introduce ourselves, which gave us a glimpse into the heart of each of us. Then we entered into a time of sharing Holy Envy, in which we celebrated and affirmed parts of each other’s practices, liturgies, mission work and theology. We found there was as abundance that we admire and enjoy about each other’s faith communities. UCCers lifted up the beauty of Episcopal liturgies and rites, and Episcopalians lifted up UCC justice work and creative prayers that are not bound by a daily book. We share already ardent activism on the part of climate justice, racism, the homeless, refugees and more.
We shared stories of our collaborative ministries already going on, such as two churches considering “co-locating” into one church building; shared worship like Ash Wednesdays, Easter Vigils, Election Night Eucharists, Thanksgiving services; clergy support for each other; putting together vigils in times of trouble; working on mission partnerships like building a Habitat for Humanity House together or youth groups doing the CROP Walk together, and in Greater Springfield, forming UCC/Episcopal pastor partners for each weekend to lead the Church Without Walls for the homeless or unchurched.
Later after a delicious lunch we dreamed how we might spread what we are doing to other places, to our sister churches? We talked of UCCers inviting Episcopal partners to talk about our relationships at upcoming Super Saturdays or local Association meetings in the Massachusetts Conference; and about publications in which to share stories in our church regions. We explored the UCC - United Church of Canada Recognition, Reconciliation of Ordained Ministry, and the Episcopal-Methodist Full Communion proposal.
The conversation continues and we have agreed to look for ways to grow this from the ground up, tell our stories, share this with other denomination friends and neighbors, and look for ways to spread the word and work of our partnerships.
We ended with prayer and much affection.
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