Doris Kilbane, 440-212-0329
Rev. Karen Leedahl,
Historic Event on Sept. 27
Catholics, Lutherans, others join in 500-year Reformation Commemoration
By Doris E. Kilbane
Sebastian–Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches on the Space and Treasurer Coasts, following the history-making lead of Pope Francis and global Lutheran leaders, will join in a Common Prayer service to commemorate of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The 7 p.m. service at St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church, US Hwy. 1, Sebastian, is on Wednesday, Sept. 27 and is open to all in the area.
Last October, Catholics and Lutherans began the celebration of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary by participating in a Common Prayer service lead by Pope Francis, The Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan and its general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Martin Jung in Lund, Sweden. The Common Prayer service is structured around the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness.
The Reformation began in October 1517 when the German priest and professor Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg University in Germany on Oct. 31. The subsequent debate about Christian teaching and practice led to the creation of the Lutheran and other protestant churches and other changes that have shaped the course of Western Christianity for almost 500 years.
Locally, in Sebastian, FL, the event will be commemorated with a joint homily by Father John Morrissey of St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church, Sebastian, and the Rev. Jack Diehl, pastor emeritus, Our Savior Lutheran, Vero Beach. Also participating are the Rev. Jay Bergstresser of Cocoa Beach, president of the ELCA Space Coast Conference, and officials of the area Catholic Diocese.
Clergy from several churches in Brevard and Indian River counties also will have roles in the service. Music will be under the direction of the music ministers of Our Savior Lutheran and St. Sebastian Roman Catholic churches. A small reception in the church rotunda will follow the common prayer worship service. The special service is being organized by members of St. Sebastian RC church and Christ the King Lutheran of Sebastian under the guidance of the Rev. Karen Leedahl of Christ the King.
Why Joint Service
When Father Morrissey of St. Sebastian was asked why he offered to host this special event that caused such separation and hurt 500 years ago and through the years, he replied, “One has to be a missionary to realize the damage caused by the split in Christianity. Whenever there is a disagreement there are usually faults on both sides. Both sides can say: “through my fault.”
“As a student of Vatican II, I was brought up to emphasize what we have in common,” said Father Morrissey, “rather than what divides us–and we have so much in common. I like the words of Pope Francis: “unity happens when we walk together.”
The Rev. Karen Leedahl of Christ the King added, “What began as a small local event to mark a special moment in the journey of years of conversation between Lutherans and Catholics, has grown to include all of Brevard and Indian River Counties. The Common Prayer service will include thanksgiving, repentance, common witness and commitment. Five candles will be lit for five ecumenical imperatives. We are grateful that St. Sebastian is willing to host this service. People of all denominations are encouraged to attend as a sign of Christian unity.”
A joint statement from Pope Francis and the Lutheran World Federation emphasizes the move by the groups from “conflict to communion.” It states, “Our common faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism demand of us a daily conversion, by which we cast off the historical disagreements and conflicts that impede the ministry of reconciliation. While the past cannot be changed, what is remembered and how it is remembered can be transformed. We pray for the healing of our wounds and of the memories that cloud our view of one another. We emphatically reject all hatred and violence, past and present, especially that expressed in the name of religion. Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognize that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us.”
It also says, “The Reformation offers to Christians everywhere a liberating way of listening to and sharing the word of God. It teaches that Christ’s life flows through faith into a life of service to the neighbor and offers the promise of God’s love that makes possible a life of “living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”