Sometimes it seems that almost every facet of our society is divided, including religion.
So it’s refreshing to note that two religious groups that spent a bloody past clawing at each other’s throats (often literally) have found common ground.
During October, area Roman Catholics and Lutherans will cooperate on several events in Lexington commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation began when Martin Luther and his followers split from the Catholic Church. That division eventually inflamed Europe with violence from both sides.
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But members of the two denominations plan to come together this month for a concert, a pair of lectures and a joint prayer service.
The events are a cooperative effort between the Catholic Diocese of Lexington and the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Similar events are being held regionally, nationally, and internationally.
(In the interest of disclosure, I spoke at a Lutheran-Catholic meeting earlier this year at Lexington’s Cathedral of Christ the King.)
“There are people of good faith in both churches who believe we have more in common than divides us,” said the Rev. Dana Lockhart, one of local events’ organizers.
He credited Catholic Bishop John Stowe of the Lexington diocese with having led the effort to bring area Catholics and Lutherans together.
Lockhart himself is a living testimony to interdenominational cooperation.
He’s the priest-in-charge of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Versailles, although he’s an ordained Lutheran minister.
As he put it, he’s a Lutheran pastor who serves an Episcopal church but sends his daughter to a Catholic kindergarten.
“I confuse a lot of people,” he said. “It’s a testimony to the amusing things God is doing.”
For the record — this has nothing to do with the Catholic-Lutheran celebration — the Episcopal and the Evangelical Lutheran denominations share a communion agreement that allows them to trade clergy and work together in other ways while maintaining their individual denominational identities.
From a Catholic perspective, the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s made it easier for Catholics to cooperate with other groups, said David G. Hunter, Cottrill-Rolfes chair of Catholic studies at the University of Kentucky.
Before Vatican II, Catholics were discouraged from participating in ecumenical efforts.
Also, political and social issues — such as turf battles among German princes — that once kept Catholics and Lutherans fighting are no longer present today, Hunter said.
He helped develop a pair of Catholic-Lutheran lectures scheduled for Oct. 8 at UK.
Lockhart, the Lutheran, thinks there’s a growing awareness among Christian groups that they truly need each other.
“No denomination can be a world unto itself anymore,” he said. “It works better when we work together than when we stand apart and are antagonistic toward each other.”
Besides, he said, Catholics and Lutherans have enjoyed a general peace with each other for decades. That’s enabled both sides to look at their pasts with critical eyes.
“My grandfather’s conflict doesn’t have to be my conflict today,” Lockhart said. “Or my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s conflict.”
Here’s hoping such interdenominational cooperation will increasingly flourish, not only among Catholics and Lutherans, but among all Christian sects. Or, for that matter, among Christians and people of entirely different religions.
It’s my contention that you rarely must sacrifice the integrity or the cherished details of your own beliefs to listen to, or work with, those whose beliefs differ.
Nearly everyone can agree, for instance, that we want our kids and grandkids to live in a safe and healthy land, or that we want to see the hungry fed or the mourning comforted or the illiterate educated or the addicted set free. We’re a lot more alike than different.
Here are the events scheduled for this month:
▪ 2 p.m. Oct. 1: A concert and reception will be held at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, 299 Colony Blvd., featuring a bell choir, a joint children’s choir, and a joint adult choir. The Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra will make up much of the orchestra. A reception will follow in the cathedral’s Hehman Hall.
▪ 7 p.m. Oct. 8: Two lectures in the W. T. Young Library’s auditorium at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic systematic theology at Boston College, will speak on the “conflict” of the Catholic-Lutheran split in the 1500s. The Rev. Joy Schroeder, professor of church history at Capital University and Trinity Seminary in Bexley, Ohio, will speak on the “communion” of Catholic-Lutheran dialogues since 1965.
▪ 7 p.m. Oct. 22: A joint prayer service will be held at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington. Presiding will be Bishop John Stowe of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington and Bishop William O. Gafkjen of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A reception will follow in Hehman Hall.
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.