In what can best be described as “models for creative ministry,” two new congregations which combine Lutheran and Episcopalian members and clergy have begun worshiping together.
The Church of the Nativity and Holy Comforter is located in Baltimore. (The Café first reported on the unique partnership between the two founding congregations in 2016.) The parish recently federated to become a single, combined congregation. The press release describes the merger as an outgrowth of both groups’ needs:
The two congregations first partnered in 2015, at a time when the former Church of the Nativity, Cedarcroft was approached by The Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter, its neighbor a half-mile south on York Road in Govans. The Lutheran congregation faced unsustainable costs to maintain an aging, deteriorating church building made more difficult by declining attendance. While Nativity didn’t face the same building or financial challenges, it recognized the need to increase the number of people worshipping there.
There were some inevitable glitches in bringing together two disparate church families, explained the Rev. T. Stewart Lucas, who was formally called to be the founding Pastor of the newly federated church at a congregational meeting Sunday.
“But it didn’t take long for us to realize that we truly are better together,” said Pastor Lucas. “There is new energy and a spirit of excitement. New members have arrived. Attendance on Sundays has more than doubled. The singing is more robust, more volunteers have stepped up to offer help and more people come to coffee hour to connect with others and share ideas.”
He noted that one member had characterized the partnership as “one big mash-up,” adding that “you wouldn’t be able to walk in the church on any given Sunday and know who was Episcopalian and who was Lutheran. We’re all there, participating in the liturgy, coming to coffee hour, washing dishes in the kitchen and sending our kids to Sunday School. It’s everybody doing things together.”
… Pastor Lucas credited the bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for permitting this experimental partnership to move forward. Already, other congregations considering similar partnerships, both locally and nationally, have reached out for advice and guidance.
Christ’s Beloved Community is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It is a bilingual congregation which grew out of a street church and food pantry in downtown Winston-Salem. According to the press release,
Services, at the 3205 S Main St. location, will be English with Spanish. And, again, food is key. Before each worship service on Sundays, the community will meet for a community potluck lunch at 12:30 p.m. Worship will follow at 1:30 pm on Sundays.
The church of the Beloved Community is committed to:
- Discipleship and mission outside the church walls to create, grow and sustain our community of faith;
- Raising up leaders from within the community;
- Responding to the needs of children, youth and their families;
- Embracing reconciliation and breaking down racial barriers by being in community and worshipping together;
- Being known for loving service during the week as much as our worship together.
Christ’s Beloved Community is multi-cultural, centered on Jesus Christ, and born of two traditional denominations. Its pastor, Chantal McKinney, is Episcopalian, and its pastoral intern, Emily Norris, is Lutheran. Grounded in those two mainline denominations, Christ’s Beloved Community is spiritually fed by breaking bread together at lunch and again in worship at the communion table. The community is then sent into the world to care for each other.
These two churches are part of a small handful of “blended” Lutheran and Episcopal congregations, an arrangement which was made possible by the full communion agreement between the two denominations, which was begun in 1999.