“See how the pieces the team chooses weave together to create something beautiful.”
What is an Ecumenical Service?
Ecumenism refers to relationships between and among Christians of various denominations. This is slightly different than “interfaith” which refers to relationships across multiple religions. To learn more about ecumenism and ecumenical work, check out the following article:
The most important time in the year for ecumenism is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins on January 18th, the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter. To learn more about this annual celebration, check out the following article:
Planning Joint Worship
Developing an ecumenical worship service can be one of the most spiritually uplifting experiences for any Christian. As always, we remember that we are living into Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 “That you all may be one.” If you are planning an ecumenical worship service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, or some other time: here are some pointers and items to keep in mind:
Start by asking what is it about worship in our home churches that we treasure most deeply?
Start in your congregation
Start by having this conversation in your congregation. From this your members of the ecumenical planning team (usually a clergy person and one or two lay people) can distill two or three things that you would like to contribute.
Bring it together
Once the group is assembled from both (or more) churches, the ecumenical planning team should first create an outline of the liturgy – music, prayers, readings, reflections – in an intentional pattern.
Then look at the treasured pieces that each congregation brings. Look for similarities, and uniqueness.
Figure out how the pieces the team chooses (you won’t be able to fit them all in) weave together to create something beautiful.
Decide where you will hold the service, and who will do what.
Spend time on the bulletin
Prepare a service bulletin that includes a brief explanation of each of the pieces you have included and why it is a treasure to the congregation that contributed it. I believe it is much more interesting and engaging to plan your own. It may take a little longer than using something already written, but the experience will be much richer and longer lasting.
Make sure the addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites of the participating congregations are on the back of the Bulletin.
Have time for food and fellowship after the service.
Online Resources for Ecumenical Worship Planning
The following websites are critical to have in your toolbox. Among other resources, you will find model liturgies and bulletins that you can use or adapt.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Resources from Graymoor)
Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR – United Methodist Church)
Elizabeth Ring is a lifelong Episcopalian and student of theology. She recently retired from 26 years on the staff of the Diocese of Maine where she was part of the team that developed their Diocesan Resource Center and served as consultant to congregations around program and leadership development for lifelong learning.
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