One in Mission

One change I have seen in religious life over the past 25 years is a seeming reduction of ecumenical activities. There has been a notable decline in inter-church organizations on all levels. The World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches and the New York Council of Churches, and our own Huntington Clergy Association are all significantly smaller than they were a few decades ago. The shrinking of these organizations, though, does not mean that ecumenical work is less important, or even that less ecumenical activity is going on. It may be more a reflection of changing priorities and methods of cooperation.

This change is partly of the change in clergy workloads. As churches tighten budgets there are more part-time clergy, and the ones who are still full-time have more work to do as their staffs have shrunk. This leaves less time for work outside of the parish. This also leads many clergy to be bi-vocational and work at another job during the day. So they have no time for the traditional clergy coffee group.

As the standing groups seem to shrink, the ecumenical movement has found new expressions in interfaith work, and focused mission activities. The Long Island Multi-Faith Forum is a good example of the former and the Long Island Council of Churches (LICC) shows what can be done when people of faith join together to address pressing community needs. One reason the LICC has bucked the national trend is that they are a service organization that runs food banks and provides other needed services to people in need. We find time to work together when can make things happen and truly help others.

I am thinking about the ecumenical movement because this Sunday is World Communion Sunday. This Sunday all churches around the world will be thinking of each other as they share communion in their congregations. It is a symbolic recognition of the diverse nature of the church, and an event that deserves widespread recognition. The motto of the United Church of Christ is “that they may be one.” (John 17:21) We may never be on in organization, but may we never forget that we need to be one in mission.

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