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Sunday Reflections: Common Ground in Christianity

Local religious leaders take turns sharing their thoughts on the issues.

By Pastor Dai Morgan, Swissvale

This piece is the first in a regular series of columns covering the subject of religion. I am the pastor of Living Spirit Ministry—

I have invited other local clergy and religious professionals to contribute to the writing of this feature. It is my hope that we will be able to provide a variety of perspectives on religious thought, practice and experience. Of course, when possible, we will try to include a local angle.

My topic for today was inspired by a recent experience, but also, I think, is an appropriate topic to begin this series. The topic is “Ecumenism,” the movement for unityand cooperation among the various traditions and denominations within Christianity.

Last month, I spent five days attending the National Workshop on Christian Unity, in Oklahoma City. The NWCU is an annual conference focused on the subject of cooperation among the various Christian traditions. This was the 41st meeting of the NWCU. Every year this conference moves to a different city—last year, incidentally, it was held in Pittsburgh.

The National Workshop on Christian Unity consists of lectures, discussions and breakout sessions, as well as offering a Bible study and ecumenical worship services. It is an intense and stimulating event, providing both practical and theoretical information.Of course, this all takes place with representatives of many different Christian traditions sitting side-by-side, sharing together.

I attended the National Workshop on Christian Unity as the representative of the body of United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania—consisting of over 800 congregations. I was sent because I chair the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity. Clearly, I am interested in ecumenism. An example of ecumenism in our own backyard is the work of the Swissvale and Forest Hills Ministeriums—a ministerium is a local ecumenical association of clergy and religious professionals who provide mutual support and plan for interchurch cooperation.

Several faith traditions are represented in both of these ministeriums: Baptist, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Methodist. Not only do the members of these two ministeriums meet regularly among themselves, they periodically meet together.

The ministerium to which I belong, in Swissvale, has been in existence for 60 years. Cooperation among the churches and clergy in the borough of Swissvale has been exemplary. We frequently work across denominational lines, demonstrating the commonality in the faith that we share.

As a last word, it needs to be recognized that with all that the various branches of Christianity have in common, it would be inaccurate to claim that there are no differences among them. Those who work for Christian unity, respect those differences. There are clear reasons that so many denominations have arisen. Admittedly, there are institutional differences and doctrinal disagreements among the denominations. However, these differences do not need to prevent cooperation and shared mission.

Many of the churches in the foresthills-regentsquarePatch.com area are actively ecumenical-oriented and demonstrating that there is strength in unity.

A spirit of friendship commonly prevails.

Lloyd Miller May 20, 2012 at 07:25 PM
This is a great place to worship. It has friendly people who are very welcoming to newcomers. It is a small congregation so everyone can get to know everyone for help and support with their spiritual needs. For a small congregation they are involved with so much from being the new location for the Food Bank, yoga classes, ceramics, meals on wheels, mid week service, youth group, Sunday worship and so very much more. This is the place to be if you are looking for a place to worship as well as give back to your community.
Bob Dove May 20, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Another local ecumenical organization, the Three Rivers Walk to Emmaus, works to strengthen all Christian churches in the region by providing a 72-hour spiritual retreat 4 times a year (twice for men and twice for women). You can check it out at www.trwe.org to get the details on the next two retreats held the first and second weeks of November. Over 2,000 western Pennsylvania Christians have participated in these spiritual retreats during the past 20 years and returned to their churches with a renewed spirituality and enthusiasm for Christian service.

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