COLUMBIA — The week of Christian Unity came to a close Jan. 27 with the Lutheran- Anglican-Roman Catholic-United Methodist Bishops’ Ecumenical Dialogue Prayer Service at St. Peter Church in Columbia.
Bishop Lawrence J. Mc-Cleskey, representing the South Carolina Conference United Methodist Church, gave a sermon that revolved around the Scripture passage, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you” (John 14: 27). He said that as a preacher, he has used this text for funeral services but believes it can be used in a broader dimension.
“I’ve discovered that these words convey a promise, a practice and a presence,” McCleskey said. According to the Methodist bishop, Christ promises peace, a gift from him to his church. People are called to practice love in their daily lives and in doing so the presence of the Trinitarian God will be “known in our midst.”
Father Alexander McDonald is the vicar for ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the Diocese of Charleston. He believes these gatherings are important because they give witness to the importance of staying on the ecumenical journey.
“The relationship between [the bishops] makes it easier to give united witness, not only in Christ’s prayer and desire that his followers be one, but also these leaders can better address current issues and common concerns with a stronger voice that results from coming together,” explained Father McDonald.
The bishops also took the opportunity to renew and update their existing covenant that was first signed by Bishop David B. Thompson.
“When you think of covenant with its biblical background, it is more than a list of action items. It is about fostering relationships,” said Father McDonald.
On the Thursday prior to the prayer service, LARCUM participated in a clergy advocacy day sponsored by the South Carolina Christian Action Council in Columbia. During the event, talks were given on advocacy, the legislative process, and the need for clergy involvement in legislation.
The Rev. Lewis Galloway, senior pastor of Shandon Presbyterian Church, explained why he became more vocal on important issues and felt a sense of responsibility.
“We are not just ordinary people; we are those who marry your children and bury your parents,” he said.
In the following months, Father McDonald said, he would like to focus on a part of the covenant dealing with how LARCUM can “cooperate in welcoming the immigrant by working together to promote justice, provide social outreach and advocacy and encourage and assist immigrants to attend their respective church faith communities.”
Melissa Walker, the administrator for ecumenical and interreligious affairs, helped coordinate the prayer service as well as other LARCUM activities throughout the year as a member of the steering committee with Father McDonald.
“This is our ninth prayer service, and each year these five bishops, who represent four unique and different denominations, come together to show their commitment to this event and their respect for one another,” Walker said. “They are bishops, and they are friends, and we should strive for this type of ecumenism within our own congregations.”