November 30, 2020

Open Mic at the iMonk Lounge: What are your examples/dreams of “Miracle on 34th Street Ecumenism?”

If you’ve read “Miracle on 34th Street Ecumenism,” then you know that I’m talking about various traditions, denominations and churches being willing to send their “customers” to the other “store” for what they’ve lost, left out, run out of or just don’t do well.

So…for open mic night here at the lounge, What Would Be Your Examples/Dreams of “Miracle on 34th Street Ecumenism?”

Who would you like to see visit whom? For what? (I’m especially interested in any actual examples, even from your own personal experience.)

Talk amongst yourselves.


  1. I live in a small town that supports a large rural community and contains 8 churches: Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, United, Pentecostal, Wesleyan, Methodist, and Christian Reformed. All the pastors of the churches get together on a regular basis (once every couple months or so) to talk together and discuss issues in their congregations. They organize at least one ecumenical service a year, which is, however, very poorly attended. Last fall, one congregation organized a combined Praise & Worship service in which 3 or 4 of the churches participated, and they hope to do it again.

    I would love to see a combined youth effort, since none of the churches have a strong youth group. I don’t think such a wide range of denominations could agree on specific leaders or topics, but I wonder about a community-wide weekly youth newsletter advertising all the different youth options offered at each church. Maybe a teen would be interested in the movie evening at the Pentecostal church one week, then try out the retreat at the Catholic church the next weekend, or the bowling put on by the Anglican church. That kind of newsletter could even go beyond youth only to encompass all church activities in the area, most of which we are unaware of unless we get every church bulletin.

  2. I am the pastor of a Christian Reformed Church (we trace our heritage to the Dutch Reformed Church and the Reformed Church of America) and I would love to see members from my denomination go to the Orthodox. In many ways we tend to do engagement with the world rather well (some major intellectuals have come from my tradition), but we tend to lose sight of the incredible richness of the past tradition of the church. As most protestants, we tend to think Christianity started with the Reformation (sad by very true).

    So, to gain a bit of perspective on this thing called Christianity I would love to gain a little appreciation for its entire history.

  3. We start at the seeker church, where we pull out the non-CCM music. But, we lack a sense of the sacred, so we head over the the Methodist church for that, along with the great hymns. But, this feels a little stiff, so we go back to the seeker church to pick up some attitude, along with a strong emphasis on service. But, we don’t have a Biblical base, and we’re tired of low-cut blouses and flip-flops, so we trot to the SBC church for exegetical preaching, along with some lessons in cooperative giving and denominational structure. But, these guys are a tad dull, so we meander over to the Vineyard for a dose of Bible along with a helping of charismatic activity. On the way home, we stop at the little Independent Baptist church for some mature Christian advice and warmth. What with all the clothes-changing, it is an ecumenical, but exhausting morning.

  4. I attend eucharistic adoration services at local Roman Catholic churches. One local Roman Catholic church made a park-like space next to their church with stations of the cross along a dirt path and a grotto holding a statue of Mary with benches to pray. It is open to the public. I think Catholics are actually quite tolerant of protestants like me. I’m sure I stick out like a sore thumb. Then I go to a Lutheran service and am the only one making the small sign of the cross (“May Christ’s words be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart”) before the gospel reading. Awkward.

    I also attended a protestant church where a Roman Catholic family would attend evening services while still attending morning mass in their parish. They were not pressured to convert – and they didn’t. It always struck me a little odd that they were coming to my church and I was going to one of theirs. It doesn’t seem odd anymore.

    I think this post makes an excellent point. Protestant churches are not going to start holding eucharistic adoration services or rosary services (yes, some do). It makes more sense to participate and enjoy these services among the fellowships where those expresssions actually mean something, rather than throwing something together to attract a small demographic while scaring others out the door.

    I do try to give something in the offering when I attend a service at another church to help support their ministry.

  5. RC cathedral for Ash Wednesday, Jewish-oriented church for Pesach and other of the Festivals, visiting with Orthodox friends, churches where I’m the only white person there – it’s all good.

  6. Dunker Eric says

    I’d send people to a Pentecostal church for prayer and the movement of the Spirit and multicultural celebration of the presence of God.

    I’d send people to a silent Friends meeting to be still and listen for God. And for social justice, too. Mennonites are good for social justice as well.

    I’d send people to the Amish to have people learn about placing the church community before the individual.

    I’d send people to an Orthodox church to learn the mystery of God, and to see God incarnate in the sacraments of the church.

    I’d send people to an emergent church to learn about evangelizing.

    I’d send people to mainline churches to learn how to be a mature church–how to go on after we learn that we are sinners, that we don’t all agree about everything, and that we haven’t hit upon the one perfect truth, and that we aren’t going to grow forever.

    I might even send them to the Mormons to learn about working to live a life of holiness.

  7. Sharing common space would be my suggestion. I know the Church won’t do it, but it would be nice. Even though we may celebrate in different spaces we could at least share the building.

  8. Just recently I sent a lady to a non-Orthodox church because she was Arabic/Aramaic (did you know that Aramaic is still spoken in a couple of towns over there?) and we do not use Aramaic in our church services.

    I have gently guided some new people with children over to a church that had a good children’s ministry. I did that with deep regret, as I would have liked to start one at our church, but that particular family needed to get their kids into such a group quickly. They were already semi-rejecting Christianity based on their lack of friendship experiences in the church.

  9. Scott Miller says

    Here in Kansas, everyone takes their kids over to the charismatic church for Hallowen because they have the big bouncy rides and lots of “safe” candy. They’ll never see these people again, of course.

  10. Why not just put them all together right? If they aren’t Catholic with big pope hats they are headed to hell anyway. Since I am not Catholic, I decided I would become a Reformanglibaptismethawitness.

  11. I had a RCC layman hit all my sermons for a couple months and take the lessons to his youth group. Things went well till he shared his source with the priest. I wish he would come back I miss him, he not only loved Jesus with all his heart, he took notes. .
    In a perfect world I would like to see Methodists attend a Pentecostal service to learn it is ok to move a little and emote during worship,stop at the Presbyterians to rest up, then worship with Church of Christ for the emphasis on communion, zip over to a fundie Baptist work for emphasis on scripture, Visit the catholics for a dose of real holiness during devotions, attend a couple different SBC works to see that we are not zeroxed in our services, and end up non-denominational for the whole open door attitude.
    Hey, that is what happened to me!

  12. My life has roamed from Lutheran through long stops at independent and charismatic churches, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, and several variations of Baptist. There have been brief visits to Episcopal, Catholic, Anglican (while abroad), Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and who-knows-what. And I’ve recently returned to Lutheran. Sometimes the result is that I’m confused and don’t feel at home anywhere! But yet I’ve gained so much. Each church taught me something different. Each church did some things well and some things not so well. Understanding view points I don’t personally agree with has given me respect for those on the other side(s)of the issue. It has also helped me to understand why I believe as I do; it has added depth to my own beliefs.

    One of my joys in being a part of various churches has been helping one group of Christians to understand another group. Most recently a group of Baptists was certain that if Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, etc., would just read their Bibles, it would be obvious that infant baptism wasn’t an option. I shared with them the basics of why those who believe in infant baptism do so. I wasn’t trying to change any one’s mind, and I didn’t. (Frankly, I don’t even know what I believe about infant baptism.) But after I spoke, this group of Baptists stopped writing off infant-baptism-believing Christians as biblically ignorant. There was more understanding and respect.

    I’ve often wished that those who know only one type of church would go visiting. First, it would show them what it’s like to be a visitor at a church and uncertain of how to behave. They might gain a new sensitivity to visitors at their own church. Two, they may gain ideas they’d like to incorporate in their own churches. Three, visiting other churches might help them to understand why people in other denominations believe as they do. Hopefully this would lead to greater respect for other Christians, as well as a deeper understanding of their own beliefs. Plus, let’s face it, no matter how great you think your own church is, it’s not the best church for everyone. But how can you refer someone to another church when you know nothing about it?

    I think any visiting of other churches would be beneficial, but for those brave enough I would have people sample (please excuse the over-generalized labels) the liturgical churches (e.g., Lutheran, Catholic), the evangelical churches (e.g., Baptist), and the Holy Spirit churches (e.g., Assembly of God, Pentecostal).

  13. That Other Jean says

    For Giovanni:

    Actually, a variety of congregations sharing a building is pretty common here in Columbia, Maryland. Of course, it’s a planned city built in the late ’60’s as a vast social experiment, but it works. We have five or six interfaith centers. For example, The Meeting House, in Oakland Mills, houses six groups: Jewish reformed, Jewish reconstructionist, Southern Baptist (yes, really), United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran, and Roman Catholic. I don’t know how much they do together, but they seem to get along well enough. I haven’t seen any fireballs in the sky lately.

  14. Stephen Yates says

    I feel like I’m all for “macro” ecumenism, where if someone isn’t a good fit for my church I excitedly help them find where God would have them. But some of the “micro” ecumenism found here (go to X church for communion, Y church for emotion, Z church for discipleship) troubles me. Where’s the line between ecumenism and non-committment?

  15. After I left the ecumenical Christian environment that I think many of us found stimulating in college or grad school, I had precious few avenues for continuing to pursue real Christian unity.

    It was frustraing to leave that environment for the much narrower confines of a tradition that mostly engaged in talking to itself or talking about others rather than talking with others and moving towards greater charity, understanding, and even unity as the Body of Christ.

    What I stumbled upon after several years of such wandering was an international ecumenical community called the “The People of Praise”. After a couple more years of ‘observation’ My wife and I joined the community.

    We have a lot of conversations about these matters because we have to live all of our ecumenical differences out as we practice Christian community. (We’re not ‘communual’ in the sense of a compound in Montana, however. We have branches in cities throughout the US, Canada and the Caribbean). Life in an ecumenical community has been, for me, a tremendous ‘education’ in a kind of living ‘mere Christianity’ that does not devolve to the ‘lowest common denominator.’

  16. Michael Dee Smith says

    About two years after becoming a Christian at age 28, my wife, children, and I joined a small PCA church. It deeply shaped me and my theological development, and I became a convinced Calvinist. Like many Christians from other traditions, it was abundantly clear to me then that “our” way of understanding the faith was the purest expression of Christian truth. If only everyone would understand and live the faith as we did, the world would be saved. At the ten year point, this church imploded, and we were out on the streets looking for another home.

    No other Reformed churches existed in town, so this became what I later referred to as our diaspora; five years of wandering and looking for a place to settle. With overly clear ideas as to what church should be, it was painfully easy to dismiss each congregation visited. My wife and three young daughters put up with me as I checked one after the other off the list of possibilities. Two church planting efforts were made during this time, one failed, and one successful. After the successful one got a pastor and I saw he had a completely different vision of church from mine, we were back on the road.

    Desperately hoping that such a thing as “The True Church” existed, I attended RCIA classes at a local Catholic church. Upon their completion, I sadly came to the conclusion that I remained a protestant, and no such thing as “The True Church” was present in this world. There was only CHURCH, that it had its being in every church, and was made up of screwballs and idiots like me. Christ loved us all, and I would have to learn to love the people he loved.

    Love the people Christ loves? How hard is that? Especially when it includes loving ourselves as Christ does?

    I now wonder why we who are CHURCH don’t emphasize and take with utmost seriousness Christ prayer to the Father that “….they would be as one”. Isn’t this the witness we are to give to the world? Christ has made us One People, and One Body, who are a witness to the One Life and the New Creation here and to come.

    I am now utterly convinced that God has blessed each denomination, all traditions, every gathering of believers, with some true facet of Himself, and that we desperately need one another in order to appreciate the fullness of the wonder of who He is. Maybe he’s just waiting for us to finally act like a family before he calls us to live with one another for all time. Is that possible?


  17. Mike: Awesome comment.

  18. Thanks for bringing this up again. I loved your first post and have shared that image with several people. I have served on the staff of two churches for a total of fifteen years. Both are committed to this practice. I regularly meet potential transfers and after hearing their story I recommend a church down the road. Often I do this with great personal regret but with confidence that it is good for the kingdom. I just spoke with a colleague who just released a potentially key servant because they felt called to a church where the need for their gifts was greater.

    Usually I will run down a list of several churches they might consider. This is especially important for people who have just moved to an area. I can save them perhaps years of wandering by helping them find a good fit fast, where they can deeply connect and serve in the kingdom work.

    At times the issues is doctrinal. In my last church I called on a family and after meeting with them I realized that what they most wanted was a particular style of youth group. So I recommended three great churches that has the kind of group they wanted. The irony is that I was the youth minister.

    The church I serve now is very focused on reaching “those Jesus misses most”, which for us means that while we value transfers, we want to make sure that transfers happen with wisdom and care and above all with a concern for all of God’s kingdom. Sometimes this means welcoming, and sometimes it means sending someone down the street and sometimes it means equipping them to return to the congregation they left to serve more effectively there.

    We trust that there are some ways we serve God and embody the kingdom very well, but we are not fools enough to believe we do it all well. Because of this we try to give as much care to someone joining our church as we would to someone coming to faith for the first time.

  19. I attend an Orthodox church on Sunday and try to get to a RC mass during the week. There are elements I love about each, as well as some I don’t.

    In our area the Orthodox and Catholic clergy do meet together to discuss various issues. I am hopeful and long for the day when these two branches can resolve their differences to the point of reunification.

  20. If only everybody cared… God bless you.

  21. i go to what i suppose would be an “emergent” church. And although I love the truth and authenticity of the worship, I also love going to the occasional catholic mass (especially at the holidays) there is something about liturgy and ritual and “high” church that is so mystical and sacred.

    I just love variety with a good foundation!

  22. These comments are all awesome. I attend a Calvary Chapel affiliate, and have been attending CCs for about 13 years now. I love these churches, but I think we could do with more respect for the traditional denominations. My dream is to have our Sunday morning service with a sense of the sacred, some liturgy and hymns, and a good dose of maturity. I think we could learn some great things from those denominations that have been around for more than 50 years!
    Michael Dee Smith: thank you for your comment, “I am now utterly convinced that God has blessed each denomination, all traditions, every gathering of believers, with some true facet of Himself, and that we desperately need one another in order to appreciate the fullness of the wonder of who He is.”
    I grew up with a father in the military, and as a result we moved every 2.5 years until I was in high school. We attended any good bible-teaching church we could find in each city we lived, which means I have a background in Baptist, Evangelical Free, Reformed Episcopal, base chapel, Church of England, and many more. My dad used to joke that we were “denominationally schizophrenic” since we saw the value in so many denominations but never had the chance to plant ourselves in one church. My parents now attend two churches: a large Calvary Chapel and a very intimate Reformed Episcopal church. Flip flops and hand-clapping at 8:00 a.m., then kneeling and the Common Book of Prayer at 10:00 a.m. It makes for a very well-rounded (if tiring) Sunday morning.

  23. It suddenly occured to me on reading these comments that I actually grew up in a church that housed all these things in one place. Lest we get too excited, it was an incredibly flawed place in many respects. Including the power hungry senior pastor and former staff and pastors (myself included) littered all over the place from the inflicted wounds. However, I heard a wide array of guest speakers which included, Oral Roberts, Corrie TenBoom, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Kenneth Copeland, Bill Bright, J Sidlow Baxter, Moishe Rosen,Oswald J Smith and the list goes on and on. The services often took on the flavor of the speaker. I guess I didn’t understand at the time the great gift we were receiving.

  24. We were attending a church outside of our own community because there was only one evangelical church in our community that had about 30 people and was very inward focused. When we heard that a Pentecostal Pastor was starting a church plant in our own community, we decided to join up with him. We were not Pentecostal, but felt that we should do what we could to support an evangelical voice in our community, even if it was a different voice than we would express on our own.

  25. Sam Steinmann says

    I grew up Plain–Amish-Mennonite; was part of a PCA church for several years; and am now in a Plain Amish-Mennonite-evangelical hybrid church.

    I think the conservative portion of the Reformed world could learn a lot of practical things from the Plain world (child training; courtship; etc), and would greatly benefit from the Plain world’s emphasis on the church, and on general knowledge of Scripture.

    I think the Plain world would benefit from more emphasis on Scripture as a whole (systematic theology), and from more emphasis on the distinction between our congregational/denominational practice and what Scripture requires (Christian liberty), which are Presbyterian strengths.