The feast of the Ascension of Christ Jesus was celebrated in Honesdale together by Lutherans and Episcopalians. In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Full Communion between the two denominations, Pastor Kenneth Buckwalter of St. John Lutheran Church and Father Edward Erb of Grace Episcopal Church decided to join forces for a feast day celebration.
On May 1, 2001 the national bodies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Anglican (Episcopal) Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, USA signed documents recognizing the ministries and sacraments of each others' traditions, entering into "Full Communion." Lutherans and Episcopalians have shared much over the centuries in their theology and practice, and now it has become formalized.
Lutheran Pastor Buckwalter presided at the Altar of Grace Episcopal Church on Thursday evening while Father Erb preached at the service of Holy Communion. Mentioning in his sermon about the years that the two parishes have served the community together in weekly free dinners and other ministries, Fr. Erb commented that Jesus' mandate that his Name should be proclaimed throughout the world "beginning in Jerusalem" meant that we have work to do together right here in our own backyard, and these two parishes have been doing just that. Communion began when we started working together. Now we can share the Body and Blood of Christ as sisters and brothers.
A joint choir provided special music for the occasion, and lay participants from both parishes joined in the service.
There are many "Major Feasts" in the Church which often fall mid-week. These provide perfect opportunities, not only for us to join together, but to ceremoniously observe the holy days of the Church's tradition. Plans are already underway to continue these joint celebrations with our "families of friends."
One of the privileges and joys of my ministry has been serving on the Moravian-Episcopal Dialogue for our national Church, which drafted the full communion proposal for our two Churches. So I am delighted to invite you to join in the celebration service inaugurating our full communion relationship on Thursday, February 10, at 6:00 p.m. at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem. Our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori will be the celebrant, joined by the heads of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in America.
It’s not often that a historical event happens right here in our back yard. And even though it’s a service for the whole of both our denominations, having a midweek service in February may reduce the number of people who come from a great distance. So that means that we who are local are encouraged to come and bring our friends. It will be great to celebrate this service right in the heart of the Moravian Church and in our diocese.
What is full communion? It is a way for denominations to come together without merging; acknowledging the fullness of the church in each other, working together for mission and ministry, and exchanging clergy. We have been in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for 10 years, and the Lutherans and Moravians are also in full communion, so this kind of completes a triangle of full communion relationships. Especially in our area, where there are plenty of Lutherans and Moravians, it will be good to see how we can live into full communion in substantial way.
I hope you will join me on February 10 for this celebration.
Maria Tjeltveit, Canon for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations