Historic Moment of Unity among Worshipers

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by: Gail Delorme, published in the Assiniboia Times

On Sunday May 7, 2017 members of Assiniboia’s Messiah Lutheran Church along with their shepherd Pastor and Mrs. Doug Miner walked two blocks east and five hundred years into the past to worship with the members of St. George’s Roman Catholic parish and their shepherd Father Dennis Remot. The Protestant Reformation put in motion by Martin Luther in Germany had fractured the universal church; Lutherans and Roman Catholics have traditionally maintained their distance.

But the Spirit brings healing. Inter-faith dialogue has taken place since November between the Lutheran minister, veteran of many isolated parishes where clergy of all denominations cooperated, and Father Dennis, activist for social justice and ecumenism. The dialogue is not unique to Assiniboia nor to 2017 as such discussions came out of Vatican 2 in the 1960’s. Our beloved Pope Francis boldly proclaims the mercy of God and declares cross-denominational worship and expression of Christian unity.

“My brothers and sisters, I will not call you Lutherans and Catholics any more, but friends!” a beaming Father Dennis said in his homily. Pastor Doug said very little, so moved was he that tears choked his voice. “I feel so humbled that God has led me to this time and place,” he was able to say. I have enjoyed so many close relationships with Catholic priests, and finally – “

It was Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter. The Gospel of John in the 10th chapter recorded that Jesus referred to Himself as both the Good Shepherd of His flock and the gate by which His followers might enter. How fitting that the people of God, accustomed to worshipping God and taking communion each in their own buildings, came together in unity.

There had been ‘buzz’ in town for weeks beforehand. Through the decades, Catholic women had married Protestant men and Lutheran women had married Catholic men. At weddings and funerals there was somewhat wary interaction in the others’ rituals and sacraments. On this glorious morning when the Spirit led, we feasted together at the Table of the Lord. What a great family reunion.

For many of us the party did not stop after the last blessing, but continued informally as both congregations went to the parish hall for lunch.