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Ecumenism 101: Varieties of gifts

An ELCA seminarian and Episcopal congregation learn from each other

Would a Lutheran seminarian choose our Episcopal congregation as a teaching site? Would our congregation be open to having a Lutheran student? Would this work? What would my bishop say? I was intrigued but had reservations.

These questions and others raced through my mind when the church I serve — St. Cyprian Episcopal, Chicago — was invited to participate in the teaching parish program of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
These questions and others raced through my mind when the church I serve — St. Cyprian Episcopal, Chicago — was invited to participate in the teaching parish program of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Then it happened. Jordi Yokers, then a first-year seminarian, contacted me, and by fall 1996 she joined us at St. Cyprian. Eight months later, on her final Sunday, we gave Yokers a farewell reception. Hugs, tears and blessings were exchanged. What had happened? Transformation. We witnessed Christ among us as we discovered our commonalities and differences.

When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America formed in 1988, it created the Northwest Lutheran Parish as a vehicle for 12 small Chicago congregations to do more effective ministry. St. Cyprian, related to most of the churches through a food pantry, became an associate member in 1994. We share pastoral study and support, operate a joint vacation Bible school, and began the Galewood Montclare Caring Seniors — a group that helps neighboring seniors "age in place" and remain in their church homes.

Yokers shared with us her experiences as a short-term missionary in Papua New Guinea. She shared her belief in tithing. Gradually she became a part of our congregation and gained the members' trust. Yokers came to understand better how our diocese worked.

At times differences surfaced, inviting us to learn from each other. Parts of our service challenged Yokers' Lutheran perspective. This in turn challenged me to think through the implications of things I took for granted.

This is ecumenism in action at the local level. Yokers came as a stranger and left as a friend. Mutual ministry and learning occurred.


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