Pastors swap pulpits for Lenten worship across the Holy City


CHARLESTON — The annual peninsular Charleston ecumenical series visited five downtown Holy City churches during a monthlong period, from Feb. 20 to March 20. Host sites included St. Michael’s Episcopal, First Baptist, St. John’s Lutheran, First (Scots) Presbyterian, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

On Feb. 27, the Lenten worship event was held at First Baptist Church. R. Marshall Blalock, pastor, welcomed participants by remarking, “We share the same Lord.”

Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, pastor of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and a vicar general for the Diocese of Charleston, preached a sermon on the topic “Forgiveness.”

Msgr. Roth began by referring to the Scripture reading John 8:1-11, given by the Rev. Michael I.H. Belser, rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.

“There is something there for all of us,” the monsignor said. “Christ is a forgiving God, and he is calling us to conversion. None of us here are perfect.”

In the Gospel of St. John, “not everyone is being treated equally,” said Msgr. Roth. “Justice is very selective. We run into that in our time as well. No one is better than anyone else. All are under God’s law.”

He continued, “Don’t reach out and selectively condemn everybody. People in the world today try to trap God. People don’t like to admit they are sinners. We are on the road in need of constant conversion. Each one walks in their own shoes to the throne of God.”

The vicar general told the congregation, “We need help. We all need love. We need Jesus. Jesus is love. Let’s try to help people because all people have value.”

Msgr. Roth urged listeners to seek God’s forgiveness and make a change in life, a move in the right direction.

“What we do and what we say and who we are is what we own. Give it to Jesus Christ,” he said. “Seek the road to conversion. Together we can walk that road someday. Let’s move toward Easter hand in hand with each other professing that Jesus is Lord.”

Last week, the concluding ecumenical service was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The Rev. Alfred T. K. Zadig Jr., associate rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal, gave a sermon titled “Lent and Palm Sunday: The Glory and the Rage.”

He opened by citing the results of a recent national survey. “Eighty-nine percent of the respondents said the church exists for spiritual needs of my family and me,” he said, shaking his head at the mention of those numbers.

“The church begins with a mission mindset, then eventually becomes a maintenance mindset. The church becomes a monument to the past. That’s why Jesus got into so much trouble.”

The Episcopal priest said, “Invite people into Christianity, but it means part of them will have to die. Die to what we want Jesus to be. The church exists for the outsider, to bring them in to hear about Christ. Don’t forget about discipleship. We exist to win the world for Christ.”

Zadig asked, “Are we monuments to the past or movements to the future?” He replied, “Monuments don’t grow. Faith isn’t real unless it is shared. There is nothing so exciting as to see a church that is in movement. These churches are challenging us. Movement is to hunger for biblical knowledge for comfort and guidance. When we move from monument to movement the Lord directs the rest of your life. Churches in Charleston must become that paradigm.”

Following the service, as with all of the other gatherings, a luncheon was served for the participants.