Joint Community Services Provide 4 Benefits

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?

8 thoughts on “Joint Community Services Provide 4 Benefits”

  1. When we pastored in rural America we congregated also. This closed the door to exclusivism and was a good christian community team builder!

  2. Our city has around 35,000 people and 40 something churches. Our church has tried to organize prayer and worship events to involve the entire community and we’ve had some great participation.

    Some pastors are so appreciative that someone will take the time to plan it and are big supporters (even canceling their own services to attend), others want nothing to do with us. We do these once a quarter and move to different churches throughout the city.

    I really like this idea. I’ve often thought about doing a “pastor swap” for a Sunday so we could all be exposed to different gifts and traditions. I don’t know how that one would go though. Would be fun though!

  3. Phil, great to hear that at least some participate. We actually have 5 churches here in town, but one pastor wants nothing to do with any joint meetings. All about him and his church, I guess. The pastor swap is dangerous — could lead to folks wanting somebody else 😮 !

  4. The cooperation among churches here in Edon, OH (pop. 900)is what attracted me to come minister here. We not only do a community service for the major holidays as well as Edon Daze, we also work together on community benevolence (especially at Christmas) and also provide services at the school (shhh, don’t tell anyone!) during major holidays. I feel very blessed to work with these guys here in town.

  5. David, that is the great thing about small towns. We also work together on benevolence, which cuts down on duplication and mistakes. What is Edon Daze? Community festival? and how do churches work together on that?

  6. Yes it is a community festival. We are responsible for the community worship service that Sunday. Plus we have a small table downtown with all the church’s info and info on the Edon Area Ministerial Association.

  7. I pastor a small Baptist church in Langdon, ND and the churches here in our town of 2000 do a lot of work together as well. We have three churches that contribute workers and support to run an AWANA program. During Lenten season, there are community services that rotate through several of the churches, including mine. On the last night of that season there is a citywide Singsparation (sp?). We have also done a Baccalaureate service for the seniors and things like that as well. I think it is easier for cooperation to take place in smaller communities.

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