Ecumenical Experiences

by Arthur W. Anderson

This summer I spoke in several non-Covenant, mainstream churches, filling in for some brethren. As I came into one of the churches, a gregarious gentleman said: "You should come here when our pastor is back, he is a top-notch preacher." He didn't know I was on deck that morning but I remembered what he said. Actually, it is heart-warming to hear a congregation brag about their pastor. It is so rarely done!

On another Sunday a friend in the church greeted me and alerted me about what to expect. "Are you aware of the problem we are having with our pastor?" he confided. I acknowledged the rumor. He then reported that the congregation had met the week before and had divided into groups to discuss the situation. "Each group concluded that the problems lay mostly with them and not with the minister. " Maybe he overestimated it, but a congregation willing to go through such a process has to be congratulated!

I felt at home in every one of the churches. I found myself chuckling because they had the same goofs, bulletin misprints, and things forgotten that I found in the Covenant. People were friendly, candid, and human and made me one of them. I found the saints there, too — people with the same stream of piety that flows in me.

The longer I live, the more I revere my own spiritual heritage in the Covenant church. It is not the only church but it is my family. Yet, I want to put my arms around the whole family of faith. These are also my brothers and sisters. The late Joseph Sittler likened the whole Christian assemblage to the wedding banquet in Jesus' parable, to which an open invitation was given. The banquet would go on whether or not people responded. Likewise, the one church is God's party. If we choose not to join, we are the losers!