My friend Fr. Tom Ryan, C.S.P, partners with me in helping to facilitate an event three times each year that is co-sponsored by three or more local congregations in a town or city in the U.S. or Canada. The event is offered in both two-day and four-day versions. Please see this agenda outline for more information about the schedule, topics, and agenda offered in each version.
Available dates for 2015:
May 30-June 3
- Provide Christian believers with an opportunity to discover, experience, and express our unity in Christ. The overarching objective of this event is to respond to the Gospel call to reconciliation with God and one another. Whole congregations of believers from different traditions are invited to experience afresh our unity in Christ through worship, spiritual growth, and mission.
- Deepen Christians’ sense of solidarity with one another. By engaging together in an experience of prayer, faith-sharing, and fellowship over four days, people come to know one another better and perceive each other as belonging to the same body of Christ. By providing people with an experience of how all that they hold in common in Christ is much deeper than anything that divides them, hearts and ways of relating are changed.
- Enable the co-sponsoring of local congregations to envision their mission differently. Each congregation may have previously envisioned its mission and deployment of human and material resources only in terms of its own members. Now, through a significant experience of planning, praying, and acting together, they are prompted to ask: “What else can we do together?” Gospel Call then becomes a faith renewal experience which energizes local churches to serve their common Lord together.
- Identify concrete ways that the co-sponsoring congregations can act together in the future. By the time the mission ends, a wide array of representatives from the participating congregations will have been led in a process of looking together at what they are doing, what resources they draw upon, and how they might work together to better serve their own members and respond to the needs of the society in which they live.
- Gains have been made. Tremendous convergence has taken place among the churches through the liturgical and biblical renewals and the ecumenical movement. The theologians have registered significant progress in resolving centuries-old church-dividing questions. Church representatives on dialogue commissions have had the experience of growing together in faith. Such opportunities now need to be made available to the wider church membership.
- Church members need an opportunity to ‘receive’ those gains. The present ecumenical emphasis at the grass roots is to provide church members with increased opportunities for sharing faith, life, and common mission in the name of Jesus Christ. The time has now come to take gains in church unity efforts “to the pews”. Gospel Call offers church members the opportunities to see for themselves how their mission outreach in evangelization and for justice and peace, their modes of worship and spiritual practices all reflect a common inspiration and purpose.
- The unity we seek must find an increasingly visible expression. It is not enough for Christian solidarity to exist solely at an invisible, mental level. The primary mission of the church is to evangelize, and as long as local communities of believers live in separation and alienation from each other, the gospel of reconciliation they bring lacks credibility. For the glory of God and in obedience to the gospel call to unity in Christ, it is important for churches to give a positive witness to our surrounding society by serving, playing, working and praying together wherever they can.
- Individual believers need opportunities for faith renewal. Gospel Call seeks to provide Christians who take their spiritual lives, prayer and church ministry seriously with opportunities for personal growth, learning and faith enrichment.
- Overall picture A four-day faith-renewal event designed to bring people into each other’s churches where they may listen to a common gospel preached by ministers of two different traditions, and, moved by the same Holy Spirit who dwells in the hearts of all, unite their hearts, minds, and voices in prayers, songs, and intercessions to the glory of God.
- Preaching the Word of God A preaching team of two ordained ministers, Roman Catholic and Protestant, preaches individually during at least one Sunday service in each of the co-sponsoring congregations if logistically possible.
- Prayer together in different churches The service is held in a different church each evening to provide participants with an opportunity to pray together in each other’s worship spaces. The pastor of the hosting church presides; the missioners preach and lead all participants in a ritual emphasizing the commonality of our faith.
- Fellowship On Sunday evening, preceding the evening service, there is a potluck supper, jointly sponsored and organized by the participating congregations. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, following the evening services, everyone is invited to gather in the hosting congregation’s fellowship hall for refreshments and socializing.
- Christian Education and Faith Development Once during the course of each weekday, a different spiritual growth and development opportunity is offered by the missioners in the form of a breakfast workshop for people on their way to work in the morning, a mid-morning Bible study, and a luncheon reflection. Similarly, these sessions are located in the various churches to provide people with an opportunity to become comfortable entering into each other’s churches.
- Follow-through On the last night, Wednesday, people who are engaged in similar ministries in the various co-sponsoring congregations come together, e.g. youth ministry; liturgy and music; administration; social action; Christian education. In a session that begins and ends with prayer, the missioners lead representatives from the different parishes in a process of sharing with one another what they do, the resources they use, and whether there are any ways they could support each other’s efforts or act together. When the various reports from the group discussions come in, particular attention is given to what they might be able to do together. A list of possibilities is created, and participants are asked to arrange them in order of priorities. This input provides provides direction for ongoing collaboration between the local churches as they face the future.
- Who sponsors it? Local congregations. As few as three or as many as eight.
- Deepens Christians’ sense of identity and solidarity with one another.
- Enables the co-sponsoring congregations to envision their mission differently
- Identifies concrete ways that congregations can act together in the future
- Increases awareness of the biblical call to unity in faith, worship, and mission
Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
North American Paulist Center
3015 Fourth Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20017-1102