Entering the gothic cathedral from four directions and pausing at a font to acknowledge the brokenness of their separation and their oneness in baptism, leaders of three Reformed churches and the ELCA symbolized their churches' "full communion" by forming a single procession at an Oct. 4 festival eucharist in Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel.
The celebration was a fulfillment of actions taken last year by the assemblies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ.
Each church has agreed to share pastors, sacraments and members and operate joint ministries while retaining their own identities.
"Part of the meaning of this day has to do with the historical blindness of our ... traditions to one another," James Echols, president of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, said in his sermon. "[But now we] see that the disagreements which divided were in fact differences that need not divide."
Several parts of the service symbolized the varieties of practices in the four churches. Cynthia McCall Campbell, president of McCormick Theological Seminary (PCUSA) in Chicago, consecrated wine for the eucharist even though grape juice is used in parts of the Reformed traditions. The gospel choir of Trinity Church (UCC), Chicago, provided special music. Scripture and prayers were read in several languages.
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