Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Churches but One Heartbeat

The three Pastors
Last night completed our second annual Ecumenical Revival in Rutledge, TN.  In so many ways this was a unique and powerful experience.

Since my arrival here, Pastor Ryan of Rutledge Methodist Church, Pastor Chan of Rutledge Baptist Church and myself of St. John Paul II Catholic Mission in Rutledge have gathered once a month for conversation, prayer and lunch.  This grew into a deep friendship and a shared food pantry ministry.  Last year this led us to hold an Ecumenical Revival under the theme that "They all be one."  This year, the people of the churches requested another ecumenical revival.

From Monday until Wednesday we gathered for three nights to reflect on the theme "... the Least of These."  In a world with so much division and in a political atmosphere with so much suspicion and distrust of the other, it is wonderful to come together as brothers and sisters of the Lord to be revived in the Holy Spirit.
JP II English Choir
Pastor Ryan

Monday night Pastor Ryan lead the way with a reflection on Matthew 25:31-46 supported by music from St. John Paul II English Choir.  His image of the two sides of one coin:  we claim Christ on one side and we serve the Lord on the other, started us off in a very positive direction.  This was followed by a wonderful musical drama performed by the WordPlayers out of Knoxville.
WordPlayers -- drama on Christ
Pastor Chan greeting folks

 Tuesday night Pastor Chan continued our reflection on the least of these with Acts 6:1-6.  Pastor Chan reminded us that this is an early experience of racism.  The biblical concern was the Hebrew widows were receiving care, but the Greek widows were not.  We too must have a heart open to carrying for all widows ... for all people.  The music that night was shared with Cliff from the Baptist Church and the St. John Paul II Spanish Choir.  This night was special in that we had the largest participation of people from different races present.  Something special happens when God's rainbow of people pray together under his SON.
Pastor Chan
JP II Spanish Choir
The congregation gathers
Frank Lesko, Ecumenical worker with Glenmary
Cliff behind the organ

The final night folks received the message from myself based on Luke 6:20-26.  The point was Jesus turns the world upside down when we truly follow Him.  The music was shared by both a Methodist duet and Rutledge Baptist Church.  Pins were giving encouraging all of to "Lend a Hand and Lift a Heart".
Baptist Choir
Myself -- preaching
Social unites even more

The heart of Christ that beats in each member of the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church and the Catholic Church warmed us all.  We were not three congregations for these three nights, but one body of Christ.  Our focus was not on ourselves, but on the least of God's children.  We united our hearts together with the heart of our Lord.  We sang with one voice and promised to lend our hands for the sake of Jesus and to lift their hearts for the sake of the Reign of God.

 God's Kingdom is just a little brighter and our hearts are little warmer for sharing in prayer these last three nights.  The missionary heartbeat of East Tennessee is healthy today in Grainger County.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Missionary Heart in Union/Grainger County

In August 2015 our two missions will celebrate four years of life.  In some ways, we are still beginning, but since Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is now a parish; it is a sign that we are beyond beginning.  Thus, I felt a new blog and a new blog title was needed.
Picture as of December 2011; now St. John Paul II
Picture as of December 2011; now Catholic Church

In searching for this new blog title, I have found inspiration from Pope Francis in his exhortation:  Joy of the Gospel.  He writes, "In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. "  (#120)  As we move in the world as missionary disciples it is also important to have a missionary heart.  Pope Francis warns against being a "sourpuss". (#85) Instead he invites us to contemplative fraternity.  "It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbor, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the heart to divine love and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does." (#92) 

At risk of sharing too many quotes, let me add the following about love, passion and hearts. 

"Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people." (#268)

"Loving others is a spiritual force drawing us to union with God; ..."When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord's greatest and most beautiful gifts. ... The work of evangelization enriches the mind and the heart; it opens up spiritual horizons; it makes us more and more sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and it takes us beyond our limited spiritual constructs. ... the openness of the heart is a source of joy.

So I hope to communicate the missionary heart beat of myself, my fellow Glenmarians, my Catholic family of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church, Maynardville and St. John Paul II Catholic Mission, Rutledge and the people of our Union and Grainger County.

If you enjoyed my previous blog, Catholic Missionary Beginnings, I hope you find this one just as helpful.

Stay tuned, more will follow soon.  In the meantime, keep your missionary heart beating in the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.