Ecumenical prayer service affirms Christian unity in challenging times

by Amanda Skofstad

Ecumenical Prayer Service

Ecumenical Prayer Service

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., hosted leaders from four Christian denominations, along with local Christian clergy and worshippers, for the Nov. 5 (Sunday) Common Prayer of Reconciliation and Remembrance in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

The service, held in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, led participants in prayers of repentance, joint recitation of the Apostles’ Creed, congregational singing and prayers of the people that gave thanks for the rich history and unique contributions of diverse Christian traditions.

In addition to Father Jenkins, co-presiding clergy were:  

  • Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
  • Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and past chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs;
  • The Rt. Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana;
  • Rev. Dr. Charles Wiley III, coordinator of the Office of Theology and Worship for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

In his introductory remarks, Father Jenkins offered an intention and focus: “We remember today 500 years of division, sometimes acrimony, sometimes even violence among Christian churches, but we pray today for unity, for understanding, for union in Christ, and we ask that that spirit will infuse us all. And I pray that it will infuse us here at Notre Dame as we join in this prayer of remembrance, reconciliation and unity.”

Ecumenical Prayer ServiceBishop Elizabeth Eaton

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton delivered a homily on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), noting that, on their face, “The Beatitudes don’t make any sense: they are improbable.” 

Bishop Eaton offered encouragement for moments when the ideals Jesus lays out in his Sermon on the Mount seem far from lived reality.

“In speaking to the crowd there he had just fed, and in speaking to us, our Lord is offering a different way—a way that might not lead to perky happiness and the relentless pursuit of it that we have in our culture, but a message and a truth that gives us hope and life in improbable times.”  

This is an improbable speech. Improbable words that Jesus is giving to us now. In Jesus’ inaugural address, he sets forth his program for what the reign of God is going to look like.”

“When we can come together after 500 years, we are making a witness that says, ‘No. Division is not the will of God. Inclusion is the will of God. Oneness is the will of God.’ And blessings and congratulations to us when we live into the unity that we already have in Jesus Christ.”

Noting the tragic news of the day, Bishop Eaton said now is also a time to mourn for the pain and loss in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“How do we pray for healing for them and for our nation? Listening to these beatitudes—this improbable message of promise—is a way for all Christians to believe, trust, live and die in the promise that we are a reconciled creation. There is nothing stronger than the love shown by God in Jesus Christ. No one and nothing can snatch us from God’s hands.” 

View the service in full: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__53lE3o87Q&feature=youtu.be

Contact: Amanda Skofstad, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4313, skofstad@nd.edu