Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Commemorating A New England Ecumenical Event

On January 19th, 1964, Cardinal Richard Cushing, then Catholic Archbishop of Boston, went to Sudbury United Methodist Church in Sudbury, MA.  He was to speak to a gathering of Christians of all denominations.  Even just a few years before 1964, such an event would have been unheard of, however, because of the work that the Second Vatican Council was doing on ecumenism; and the type of person Cardinal Cushing was, this milestone in ecumenical relations took place. 

50 years later, almost to the day, Cushing's successor, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, OFM CAP, returned to Sudbury Methodist, to celebrate the memory of that event, and to look forward to the future.  The Archdiocesan paper, The Pilot, announced the event, and gave some historical background.  Among those attending the ceremony was a friend of mine, the Rev. Anne Robertson, who is a United Methodist minister, and is currently the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bible Society.  I am privileged to be a member of the Society's Board of Trustees. The service was a combination of prayer, and song.  Since January 12th was the Baptism of the Lord, there was going to be a renewal of baptismal vows.  Somebody from the Pilot, George Martell, took pictures of the event and also got audio of Cardinal Sean's talk. 

Part of the renewal of baptismal vows included being anointed with water by either a Catholic or Protestant clergy person.  Anne and a Catholic priest were about to go to an overflow room, where they were watching the ceremony on live stream TV.  Before they went off, the priest asked Cardinal Sean to anoint them with water, then Cardinal Sean turned to Anne, and asked her to do the same for him.  Anne shares her reaction and her feelings about this on her own blog.

It speaks again of the Franciscan humility of Cardinal Sean, and his ability to seize the moment, and turn it into a pastoral, a loving, a Christian encounter; much like what Cardinal Cushing did fifty years earlier.

My late father was born into a Methodist family, he would later convert to Catholicism; but I still have Episcopalian cousins.   Ecumenism is very important to me, and I pray that we find a way forward to that day when we all will be truly one in Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Jonathan! It was an amazing service. Thank you for lifting up both the service and the wonderful grace of Cardinal O'Malley.