Tonight members of the Christian community came together in a service of prayer for unity. Dr. Jeremiah Lowney gave the message and he spoke about the sin of indifference. He really gave us some food for thought as he quoted from the story of the Good Samaritan and Matthew 25.
Several members of the clergy participated including Bishop Michael Cote from the Diocese of Norwich, Father Peter D'alesandre, from Grace Episcopal, Rev. Ho Soon Han from Lee Memorial United Methodist, Rev. Michelle Madeen- Bibeau from Central Baptist Church, Rev. James Rowe from St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church and Rev. David Stickney, the host pastor at the United Church of Christ. Mr. Tim Smith of St. Mary's and Mrs. Millie Divine of Sts Peter and Paul also participated in the service.
I am always impressed when a group of representatives from the various Christian churches come together. There is always a chance that someone will ruffle feathers and do something to embarrass or offend another tradition. But people are usually pretty tolerant and forgiving. Well tonight I was the one who got a little lost. I was chosen to read the Gospel lesson.
Now in our tradition we always read the scriptures but don't make a differentiation between Gospel, Epistles, Old Testament or Psalms. In the Roman Catholic Church and a few of our sister churches the Gospel is lifted up and every stands as it is read. I was aware of this and wanted to be sensitive to the customs I asked the event's organizer for directions on how to read according to his tradition. He told me and I have to confess that I was a little nervous that I would get it wrong.
When my turn came I strode to the front and did it exactly as Rafael told me to do it. I was greatly relieved and the service moved towards its conclusion. Afterwards Rafael came up to me and I asked him how I did. He laughed and told me he forget to tell me that I was to present the Bible to the Bishop before I read it and then offer it to him after I finished.
It struck me that no matter how hard I tried to honor someone else's tradition, I probably would have messed something up. The truth is that being sensitive to it is the most important thing. It shows that you care and respect a tradition even if you don't follow it on your own. I think this is a good rule to follow whenever we enter into ecumenical or interfaith witness. We don't have to give up our traditions, but we need to be sensitive to others and try to accommodate our differences.
Rick Warren gave us a good example at the Presidential Inauguration the other day. He didn't come in with his own agenda. He simply prayer and in doing so he brought us all together in a simple,common prayer for the nation and our new President.
Tonight we came together with a single purpose... to pray for our common faith and to give thanks to the Lord. We each did it in our own way but we also did it together. That's what matters most. Praise God.