On the path toward Christian unity: Faiths recognize 500th anniversary of Reformation

BY Rosemarie Doucette pastor

In commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Lutherans and Catholics held an ecumenical prayer service on Reformation Sunday in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in San Juan.

Reverend Sylvia de la Garza, pastor of St. John Lutheran, shared the idea of the service with Bishop Daniel Flores of the Brownsville Diocese and it grew into a beautiful expression of faith, unity, and hope, celebrated by clergy and members of churches across the Rio Grande Valley.

Reverend Sue Briner, assistant to ELCA Lutheran Bishop Ray Tiemann, and Bishop Flores were joined by Father Alfonso Guevara, pastor of St. John, Reverend Neil Cadle, pastor of First Lutheran of Edinburg, Reverend Dr. Jay Alanis of the Seminary of the Southwest, and Pastor Sylvia. The service began with remembering our unity in Christ through our baptism.

Hymns reflected prayers for the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the healing of painful memories, and thanksgiving for the witness of the Gospel that sustained us all through the centuries. Both Lutherans and Catholics expressed profound repentance for the evil words and acts, failures, and sins that have separated us for centuries. In a litany we asked for forgiveness for acting in ways that continue the divisions of the past and that build walls that divide us.

We were blessed by two sermons delivered by Bishop Flores and by Pastor Sue Briner on unity.

Next, five imperatives were read by Catholics and Lutherans, each followed by the lighting of a candle. These commitments mark our common goals of unity:

Lutherans and Catholics should always begin from the perspective of unity and not division.

We must constantly allow ourselves to be transformed by the encounter with the other.

We should commit ourselves to seek visible unity and to elaborate what this means in concrete steps.

We should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time.

We should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.

This was a celebration of thanksgiving, forgiveness, and commitment towards unity, and we look forward to seeing how God will call us to strengthen this unity, for the sake of the Gospel and for the world.

Rosemarie Doucette, pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Harlingen