Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Religious Unity Tour in the Spring!



Sharing the Story. 

Representatives from Glenmary's Commission on Ecumenism will be hitting the road shortly to build bridges with various religious groups in many settings. 

We will be reaching out to religious movements, collaborations between faith groups as well as to individual denominations themselves.  Unity happens in many ways in many contexts.  While our focus is the relationship between Catholics and evangelicals, we will be interacting with folks across the Christian spectrum and even going beyond that into interfaith relationship building.  It promises to be a wild ride!

Without further adieu, here is the spring lineup:

Ecumenical Advocacy Days

As the name suggests, Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Alexandria, VA, is a large assembly of faith groups from many denominations that gather to pray, study and act for social justice.  Advocacy work on behalf of the poor and marginalized is one of the most longstanding ways that Christians have joined together in unity.  This gathering starts with weekend worship services and breakout sessions on topics and ends with a Lobby Day on Capitol Hill meeting with Representatives and Senators.  This year's theme is: Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration & Systems of Exploitation.  EAD began in 2003 and has since become the most noteworthy event of its kind.

It is powerful indeed when individuals cross denominational lines to meet with the offices of their elected officials.  I attended in years past, and I enjoyed roaming the halls of Congress with about a dozen other folks from my state.  My group included secular Franciscans, Lutheran and Presbyterian ministers, a Quaker, students, clergy and lay people alike.  We were all speaking with a common voice:  That our diverse religious and cultural traditions have all led us to virtually the same conclusion that our common purpose is to build a more just and peaceful world for all. 

National Workshop on Christian Unity

The National Workshop on Christian Unity is one of the largest ecumenical conferences every year.  It is in many ways part of the "official" dialogue between denominations.  It is already in its 41st year and in 2015 it will be in Charlotte, NC.  The groups have traditionally been Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran, but this year promises to have a large evangelical Christian component, as well.  

North Carolina Glenmary Missions

Glenmary has two mission parishes in Windsor and Plymouth, NC.  They are rural parishes a little over an hour from the Atlantic Coast.  They are having a 3-day multi-parish retreat coming up in partnership with non-Catholic parishes, and our Commission is coming to visit.  While this is not a national gathering like the others, it is worth mentioning because it comes up in the middle of all these other events, and it represents the kind of work Glenmary typically does.

One of the five core categories of mission for Glenmary is ecumenism--the unity of all Christians.  Through our "boots on the ground" approach, based out of our mission parishes, we reach out in dialogue, friendship and mutual service with Christians of other denominations.  This ongoing grassroots work is typically the focus of this blog.  The work is slower than we may want it to be, but the results are often solid and longstanding.  The unity of Christians often happens church to church, pastor to pastor and person to person. 


Festival of Faiths

The Festival of Faiths is a major national interfaith event in Louisville, KY, with speakers, meditations, tours and art features all week.  This year is the 20th anniversary of the festival itself, and it also dovetails into the 100th birthday of Thomas Merton, with related events.  It unfolds more like a week-long pilgrimage than a typical festival.  As a true interfaith event, it involves all of the world's religions.  There promises to be strong glimpses into Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikh and Native American traditions.
While there are differences between ecumenism (the unity of Christians) and interfaith work, I have found that they both require many of the same themes and attitudes for success.  Patience, understanding, true respect and openness to where it may lead are all crucial.  Glenmary has been consistently involved in this festival in years past, and we hope to be in the future, as well!

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention is an ideal time to deepen our relationship with the largest denomination in the regions where Glenmary serves.  This is the major national gathering for the SBC, so it is both a privilege and an honor for our group of Catholic missionaries to be invited into the Press box.  Glenmary has generally had someone attend this almost every year since the late 1960s.  We are still the only Catholic group to have this honor.  Our role is to observe and be present.  In the past our members have enjoyed both the warm Southern hospitality and many good conversations throughout the Convention.

Wild Goose Festival

The Wild Goose Festival is our connection to the emerging church movement at a major 4-day outdoor festival in Hot Springs, NC.  They describe themselves this way on their website:

"Wild Goose is a community gathered at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music and art . . . “Wild Goose” is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace."

While there have been Catholic speakers and many attendees in years past, we were the first Catholic group last year to have an official presence as a table sponsor--a small but visible statement that we want to be there and be in touch with this very dynamic, creative group that is doing much to envision--and actually fashion--the future of Christianity.


CADEIO Summer Institute

CADEIO stands for "Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers."  It is a professional association within the Catholic Church to support personnel as they help foster the commitment of the Church to reach out across denominational and religious lines.  This Summer Institute near Washington, D.C., is a time to train, network and find support in this important work.  While this is mostly a closed group, it is mentioned here to show the seriousness with which Glenmary, and the Catholic Church in general, consider the work of Christian unity and interreligious dialogue.

In Summation

These events are all strategic because they offer a chance to be in dialogue with some of the major groups and movements in ecumenism:  The social justice movement, the Southern Baptists, the emerging church, denominational relationship-building, interfaith dialogue as well as continued grassroots ecumenism at the Glenmary missions. 

In some cases, just having an "official" presence is a form of outreach in and of itself:  Our presence says that we want to be in relationship and that we matter to each other.  Being present can be both simple and profound. 
However, we also hope to go beyond that into making connections and advancing the discussion of Christian and religious unity, always on the lookout for visible signs of the Kingdom.  We plan to be present, participate and then share the story widely.
Stay tuned as we share stories and insights from these events in the coming weeks!


  1. Your blog is now in my list “Catholic blogs” in order by the most recently updated.