— Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle
In the community where I serve as pastor of a local church, my congregation is hosting a service next week to celebrate the Week of Christian Unity. I am excited that several local Christian congregations, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, are joining in this important effort. I am likewise pleased that the service itself will reflect the variety of worship traditions that are part of worldwide Christian practice.
I am concerned that, on the local level throughout our country, the impetus for services in which Christians from different churches worship together has waned. It bothers me as well that there does not appear to be enough shared study both of our common Christian resources and of each others’ Christian tradition.
In the early days after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, local Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox congregations throughout our nation and the world worked furiously to find ways to pray together, study together, and serve together. These efforts have had a lingering positive impact in many communities, especially in the area of Christian outreach and service. In many localities, such as mine, ecumenical and interfaith organizations continue to meet the real life needs of individuals and families. However, I feel that we need to rekindle the desire to find more and more ways to work together on all fronts.
As a Roman Catholic for the first forty five years of my life and now as a Protestant clergyperson for the last twelve, I am deeply convinced that we need to find ways to understand our commonalities and to celebrate them. I also believe that, over the course of time, each of our individual traditions has offered particular insights into the nature of being Christian, as well as methodologies for putting Christianity into practice. In my view, it is important that we share these ways of expressing faith and our own practices of worship! I encourage the reader to do whatever you can on your own local level in order to make that happen!
Even if it is too late to set something up for this upcoming Week of Christian Unity (January 18-25), please consider finding ways to partner with other Christians in your local community or neighborhood. A Christian Unity service can most certainly be held at any time of the year! Perhaps you and others can find ways to encourage study and dialogue around the commonalities and differences between Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox. There are study materials available, including many from Energion Publications!
Please consider doing all that you can to help put Jesus’ prayer into practice, the heartfelt prayer that those who follow Him may find a way to really be ONE!