Lutherans and Catholics cross bridges at prayer service

COLUMBIA—Catholics and Lutherans were conflicted for hundreds of years, but the two denominations have come closer together and developed strong relationships since the Second Vatican Council.

This was evident at “From Conflict to Communion: Together in Hope,” a joint Lutheran-Catholic prayer service held Sept. 17 to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Members of both denominations sang and prayed together in Christ Chapel at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, their faces at times bathed in rainbow light from the chapel’s dramatic stained glass windows.

The service was led by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston and Bishop Herman R. Yoos III of the South Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

The bishops offered a joint sermon full of personal reflections about how each had come to understand the other’s beliefs. Bishop Guglielmone recalled growing up in a small town on Long Island, N.Y., where the two faiths frequently worked together on social projects, but never prayed together. Bishop Yoos recalled dating a Catholic woman during his college years, then gained more knowledge about the Church from a priest who welcomed him at the local parish.

All photos, Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss: Participants celebrate stronger relationships at the Lutheran-Catholic prayer service held Sept. 17 at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

Both leaders said they were thankful for greater understanding and more focus on ecumenical outreach in recent years.

“We have to keep finding ways to respect each other and pray with each other,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “We need to continue moving forward and strengthening our relationships with each other so we can work together in deeper faith.”

Bishop Yoos reflected on Pope Francis’ meeting with Lutheran leaders in Europe in October 2016, when he committed to a greater effort of understanding.

He compared Catholics and Lutherans who make no effort to interact to a bridge that people on both sides admire but never use.

“If we stay isolated in our own parishes, we are not doing anything to share the Gospel,” he said. “We need to begin crossing these bridges between us, and celebrate the unity we have in Jesus Christ.”

Members of both denominations came forward to light candles in a candelabra designed by North Carolina potters. Five candles represented “imperatives” which attendees committed to pursue in order to deepen fellowship.

Jeannie and Marshall Hurlbert, of Columbia, lit one of the candles. Afterward, they said they appreciated participating because their marriage is a genuine example of communion. He is Lutheran and she is Catholic. She is a member of St. John Neumann Church in Columbia and he belongs to Living Springs Lutheran Church.

They raised their two daughters with exposure to both traditions. After attending Catholic and Lutheran religious education, both girls decided they wanted to be confirmed as Catholics. That was fine with the Hurlberts, who said they are just happy they can share their love of God with others.