When Mildred Monsen retired in 1999, she told her pastor that what she most missed about her job was the informal sharing with colleagues that took place during lunch hours. “We’d have such great times talking together about many things,” she said.
Monsen suggested to her pastor, Roger S. Crum, that a similar sharing be started at Grace Lutheran Church in Westchester, Ill. The result was Table Grace, a weekly brown bag lunch program where participants discuss topics of interest.
“Soon we were looking at documents of the Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue on justification by faith,” Crum said. The group found the discussions so interesting they invited their Roman Catholic friends and neighbors to attend.
|Every Wednesday community members from a variety of religious backgrounds in Westchester, Ill., gather for a brown bag session called Table Grace. It started at, and is hosted by, Grace Lutheran Church. Seated from left at a recent gathering are Chris Holmes; Kay Buechelle; Roger S. Crum, Grace’s pastor; and Mary Acerra.|
Before long, Kay Buechele, a Dominican sister and pastoral associate at Westchester’s Divine Providence Roman Catholic Church, was participating and the parish’s priest, John C. Rosemeyer, suggested a covenant between the two churches. The covenant recognizes that despite doctrinal differences both faith traditions share a belief in Jesus Christ and believe Christ desires Christians to become one in faith. The covenant was signed Dec. 12, 1999, and reaffirmed Jan. 6, 2004.
The Wednesday meetings draw 25 to 30 people. Each meeting begins and ends with prayer. It’s during the time of prayer that the most personal sharing takes place. Membership has broadened to include people of five faith traditions, including Episcopal and Christian Reformed. Special events, such as an ecumenical worship service in January celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, draw people from Divine Infant Roman Catholic Parish and the United Church of Christ Community Church of Westchester as well.
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