COLUMBIA, South Carolina — A Catholic bishop and a Lutheran bishop told members of both their denominations gathered to mark the Reformation’s 500th anniversary that they need to keep finding ways to respect one another, pray together and cross “these bridges between us.”
Lutherans and Catholics came together for a joint prayer service in Columbia which had as its theme “From Conflict to Communion: Together in Hope.”
Members of both denominations sang and prayed together Sept. 17 in Christ Chapel at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, their faces at times bathed in rainbow light from the chapel’s dramatic stained-glass windows.
Leading the service were Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston and Bishop Herman R. Yoos III of the South Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
The bishops offered a joint sermon full of personal reflections about how each had come to understand the other’s beliefs.
Guglielmone recalled growing up in a small town on Long Island, New York, where members of the two faiths frequently worked together on social projects, but never prayed together. Yoos recalled dating a Catholic woman during his college years, then gained more knowledge about the Catholic Church from a priest who welcomed him at the local parish.
Both leaders said they were thankful for greater understanding and more focus on ecumenical outreach in recent years.
“We have to keep finding ways to respect each other and pray with each other,” Guglielmone said. “We need to continue moving forward and strengthening our relationships with each other so we can work together in deeper faith.”
Yoos reflected on Pope Francis’s meeting with Lutheran leaders in Europe in October 2016, when he committed to a greater effort of understanding.
He compared Catholics and Lutherans who make no effort to interact to a bridge that people on both sides admire but never use.
“If we stay isolated in our own parishes, we are not doing anything to share the Gospel,” he said. “We need to begin crossing these bridges between us, and celebrate the unity we have in Jesus Christ.”
Members of both denominations came forward to light candles in a candelabra designed by North Carolina potters. Five candles represented “imperatives” that attendees committed to pursue to deepen fellowship.
Jeannie and Marshall Hurlbert, of Columbia, lit one of the candles. Afterward, they said they appreciated participating because their marriage is a genuine example of communion. He is Lutheran and she is Catholic. She is a member of St. John Neumann Church in Columbia and he belongs to Living Springs Lutheran Church.
They raised their two daughters with exposure to both traditions. After attending Catholic and Lutheran religious education, both girls decided they wanted to be confirmed as Catholics. That was fine with the Hurlberts, who said they are just happy they can share their love of God with others.
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Knauss is a reporter at The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.