A story from Pennsylvania about how one community is marking the anniversary of the Reformation:
Led by the thurifer, the deacon/cantor and three acolytes, the Revs. A.J. Domines, pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, and Steven Fauser, pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church, walked side-by-side down the center aisle of Christ Lutheran in Elizabethtown Wednesday evening.
Outside, the church bells rang, saluting a joint Lutheran-Catholic service that Christ Lutheran historian Phillip P. Clark said had never before been held in the church that was founded on High Street in 1772.
The idea for the joint service came from Domines, who suggested that a prominent time would be the week leading to the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” which ultimately split the Catholic Church and led to the Protestant Reformation.
In his homily, Fauser joked about the date — “That sounds like, uh, a great idea,” he said he told Domines to laughter from the more than 150 people in attendance.
In fact, the idea was not to celebrate what divided the church for nearly five centuries but to share what the two traditions have in common.
“It’s really not a time to celebrate because whenever there is division or separation, that’s not something to rejoice over,” Fauser said. “But for us to come together, for us to realize how, over these 500 years, what we have done to come together on the Wednesday meeting signifies something special.”
Noting that the past gives the present its value, Fauser said the two traditions share a history that, unfortunately, “for 450 years allowed us to be ruled by suspicion, by defensiveness, mutual condemnation, stubbornness, nasty politics and sadly, at times, even war. If anything deserves … excommunication, it is those things.”
He said there was a time — even in Elizabethtown — when Catholics and Lutherans would not enter each other’s churches.
That changed with the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
“Lutherans and Catholics have made great strides and taken time to learn from our past,” Fauser said. Looking out at the gathering, he said, “We’ve come a long way.”