From Conflict to Communion

Lutheran - Catholic Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017

November 10, 2017
Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King

Approximately one year ago, the Bay Area Ministry formed the Reformation 500 Task Force to plan events to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, recruiting representatives from the Lutheran churches in the Bay area. Beginning with Lutherfest celebrated at Faith, Brantford in October
2016, other events followed, including a tree planting on a farm near Brantford (Reformation Challenge); Afternoon with the Bishop in Hamilton (a fun afternoon with singing, folk music, dancing and a skit); ecumenical service in Gage Park, Hamilton, Lutherfest October 2017 in Brantford. It was a busy and exciting year, but from my perspective, the culmination of the events planned took place at the Common Prayer service held at the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King in Hamilton.

Although originally the Common Prayer service was to have occurred earlier in the year, it was delayed. Perhaps this was at our Lord’s intervention, since “this year also marks 50 years of the continued international dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics, with milestone documents such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and From Conflict to Communion”.* We worshipped together with members of the Bay Area Lutheran Churches as well as Catholics from the Diocese of Hamilton district. The Right Reverend Bishop Michael Bird, Bishop of Niagara, and Imam, Shaikh Abu Noman Tarek, from the Muslim Association of Brantford, also attended this historic service.

Fittingly, the service took place on Martin Luther’s birthday, November 10. The service consisted of hymns taken from both Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions. Greetings and words of welcome were extended by Bishops from both denominations–Bishop Douglas Crosby, Catholic and Bishop Michael Pryse, Lutheran. During the service, they led prayers acknowledging past (and present) wrongs we committed against one another, and requesting forgiveness for them. Father Duffy proclaimed the Gospel.

The joint sermon was delivered by Sister Eileen Schuller and Pastor Daniela Mertz. Pr Daniela stated that Christ calls us to unity when he says: “‘I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. Sister Schuller presented this challenge to the gathering: “Because we share a common lectionary, we are united and nourished at the same table of the Word of the Lord, even as we experience our separation at the table of the Eucharist. I invite us to think of one another when we gather on Sunday, and give thanks for the unity that we share in Baptism, in the Word, as branches of the vine, trusting ‘that the One who has begun a good work in [us] will bring
it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ’.”

Members of the Bay Area Ministry mass choir and choirs from the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King, sang the anthem entitled Foundations of Faith. This anthem incorporated two familiar hymns--Christ is Made the Sure Foundation and The Church’s One Foundation– conducted by Heide Lang of St. John’s Lutheran, accompanied by the Cathedral organist, Rob Corso.

Statements of intervention expressing our common faith were delivered by representatives of both denominations in turn. We shared our common Profession of Faith, led by Bishop Crosby. Following this, Bishops Pryse and Crosby shared in reading the five commitments found in the document From Conflict to Communion to continue in discussions with one another, each statement being followed by the lighting of a candle which was then placed on the large standing candelabra near the altar.

The Five Commitments
1. Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more

easily seen and experienced. (#239)
2. Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith.(#240)
3. Catholics and Lutherans should again commit themselves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps, and to strive repeatedly toward this goal (#241)
4. Lutherans and Catholics should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time
5. Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world. (#243).

Intercessory prayers were followed by the Lord’s Prayer, the closing blessing, and the hymn, There is
One Lord.

Following the service, all present were invited to the reception, held downstairs. It was a time to relax and meet one another for conversation, laughter and fellowship and appeared to be much enjoyed by all.

I found the service to be a deeply moving experience, and this I am sure was true for many who attended. We hope and pray that earnest and open discussion will continue, so that we may walk together and witness to our common faith, as our Lord Jesus wishes us to do. I would like to close with one of the intercessory prayers from that evening:

“God of peace, bend that which is inflexible, the barriers that divide, the attachments that thwart reconciliation. Bring peace in this world. Restore wholeness among us and show us your mercy. Amen.”


Marilyn Josefsson
ELCIC - Eastern Synod
Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church
Hamilton, ON

* Quoted from Joint LWF - PCPCU statement on Reformation Day 2017

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