TheCrockery

A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

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Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Ecumenism of the Cross

Today, instead of going to the traditional Catholic Good Friday service, I went to the "ecumenical service" held at the nearest Catholic church. I knew nothing about what the service would be like, other than that the preacher was going to be from a local Protestant church.

As it turns out, there were a number of pastors present, mostly from mainline denominations. There were a couple of representatives from the United Methodist Church, for example, and ministers from local churches representing the Disciples of Christ , the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the American Baptist Churches-USA. And, of course, there was a local Catholic priest- a fellow who'd been involved in the civil rights movement in the 60s.

When I sat down to blog, I wanted to point out the names of some denominations which, though present in the area, were not represented at this ecumenical service. On further thought, I think that's a pointless and potentially uncharitable endeavor. I don't know how many other ministers might have been invited to the event, nor what reasons they might have had for declining. It's not really my job to speculate why so and so from such a church was not there.

What I do want to say is this: over the last few years, I've heard a good deal about the "ecumenism of the trenches" experienced by "conservative" Catholic and evangelical Christians, supposedly based on their learning that they have more in common with each other than with the "liberal" members of their own traditions. Often, this ecumenism is built on shared political goals. And, in some of my past posts and comments, I've suggested that there are limitations to an "ecumenism of the trenches" that unites Christians across denominational lines but not across political parties. Today, rather than focusing on those limitations, I want to suggest that there are alternative models for practical ecumenism. What I saw today was not an ecumenism of the trenches, built on a shared stance in the culture wars, but an ecumenism of the cross, built on Calvary.

At the service I attended today, there were some references made to the homeless, the outcast of society, and our solidarity with them. But that was not the central point of the service. Instead, as the first speaker -the Catholic priest- made it clear, we were here because what we shared as Christians was that we were united by the cross, the symbol of our faith . . . and Good Friday, as the preacher made it clear, is all about the cross.

Surely, that's what prayer in common ought to be: being united over the central mysteries of the Christian faith: the incarnation, the scandal of the cross, the glory of the resurrection. These things are more important than the political alliances which may divide or unite us. And I'd like to see more Christians, of all persuasions -progressive, moderate, or conservative- united in prayer in the shadow of the cross.

Long live the ecumenism of the cross!