CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, CO – MARCH 19: Clergy members pose for a photo with Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila (CL) and Bishop James Gonia (CL) Lutheran Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation at Bethany Lutheran Church on March 19, 2017, in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)
In contrast with the political and religious divisiveness of our times, Christians of many different faiths gathered this past Sunday, March 19th, in a Common Prayer Service at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. The Common Prayer Service focused on commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther.
Spearheaded by long-standing ecumenical efforts of both the Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, Catholic Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Lutheran Bishop Jim Gonia spoke to a full house of nearly 50 clergy members and 400 hundred lay members of Lutheran, Catholic, LDS, and other Christian faiths. Representing the LDS church, Stake President Russell N. Watterson, Jr., attended the service along with Marty Jensen of the LDS Church’s Denver Area Public Affairs, and several lay LDS church members.
Such LDS participation identifies the LDS Church’s fundamental belief in Christ and the Church’s continued support of fellow Christians seeking to build unity and respect among our different faiths. As LDS Interfaith Specialist, Marty Jensen, shared, “Peace and forgiveness are always a place we are honored to be.”
Throughout the service, lay members participated in stirring, religious hymns accompanied by an accomplished choir and talented vocal and instrumental soloists. The sun filtered softly through the blue and purple stained glass windows to enhance the beauty of the messages shared from the Gospel of John, which focused on the Christ being the vine.
Specifically, Archbishop Aquila urged all Christians to seek “the encounter with Jesus that we are called to today.” Additionally, Archbishop Aquila spoke of God’s desires for the happiness of every man and woman, which comes through accepting Christ.” Recognizing the unifying force of our faiths’ belief in Christ, Bishop Aquila affirmed that “the only one who can bring union among the Christian churches is Christ.”
While acknowledging doctrinal differences among the Christian faiths, Archbishop Aquila also assured believers that “unity never demands uniformity, [but] our distinctiveness [may be] brought together [so that] we can then recognize the fruit we bear of the one true God.”
Building on the theme of Christian unity, Bishop Gonia of the Lutheran faith, shared personal stories of faith and devotion from his own parents’ lives and emphasized the great strides Christians, especially Catholics and Lutherans, have made in seeking common ground rather than division. Along this theme, Bishop Gonia, said, “after centuries of division, in these last 50 years, we are striving to recognize the one true life we worship: Jesus Christ [who] modeled a collaborative witness.”
In echo of both Bishop Aquila’s and Bishop Gonia’s thoughtful sermons, President Watterson reflected upon this idea that Christian religions are united in their source: Christ, [who is] the “true vine (John 15:1).” President Watterson shared that “This [idea of Christ as the vine] was a very powerful unifying theme in their remarks and a basis for unity among Christian faiths to do good throughout the world.”
As fellow Christians, we recognize and thank the Common Prayer service organizers for demonstrating how important such unity, respect, and faith in Christ are for our communities, our nation, and our world.
Photo Credit: Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic