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The four Chatham pastors — Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian — met today to discuss our joint lenten services.  We’ll have a simple dinner and 30-minute service each of the five Wednesday evenings during lent.  We also have a community thanksgiving service, community Holy Week services, and a joint vacation Bible school.  Here are the 4 benefits these services provide:

  1. Larger attendance.  This may be obvious and is not very spiritual, but frankly a larger group at these services encourages everyone.   Rather than 4 services with a handful each, we have one service with good participation.  
  2. Shared traditions.  Baptists and Presbyterians get to take communion by intinction at the altar when we worship with the Methodists or Episcopalians.  Because the four pastors also share preaching responsibilities at each other’s church, we learn from each other about different worship practices, liturgical symbolism, and theological distinctives. 
  3. Common faith.  Despite our liturgical and theological differences, community services highlight our common Christian faith.  We are all Christians who love and serve the same God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
  4. Good fellowship.  Several of these events involve table fellowship — eating, in other words.  We enjoy seeing our neighbors at these events and it helps foster continued friendships. 

Joint community services work in our small town.  They may not work as well in other settings, but these ecumenical events build stronger bonds in our community.  What do you do with other denominations or groups?  How do you bridge theological and liturgical differences?