Roger Bonjour, Richard Goetz, Tom Gilkey, John Groh, Bill Keller, Jeff Lindgren, Howard Ludlow, John McNeil, Joe Musser, Ed Niday, Jim Orcutt, Alan Rowe, Dave Smith, Lynn Snyder, Dale Weinreich.

I’ll get back to those names in a minute. I have to digress a bit and give you a history lesson — my faith history lesson. I was born and raised a Catholic, drifted away, returned, drifted away, returned and drifted away.

I remember as a young Boy Scout I signed up for a trip to the famous churches in New York City {and a badge} like the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Patrick’s Cathedral and others. I was excited until my parish priest admonished me to stay out of “those” churches that weren’t of the Catholic persuasion. I stayed on the bus for the first stop, but ventured with the other scouts into the rest.

Guess what? The buildings didn’t collapse on me. I wasn’t indoctrinated. I enjoyed the architecture and was in awe of the stained glass windows. “Those” churches weren’t much different in structure and functionality than my traditional Catholic churches.

That was probably my — no, it was my first exposure outside my faith comfort zone and the first time I questioned why there were so many different denominations, although I didn’t think about it much after getting back home, you know, with baseball and football and basketball going on.

My first “drift” was after we got married, but we {Karen and I} returned to familiar surroundings after the kids started coming. My second drift came when, as a member of the Parish Council, I was aghast when the pastor’s secretary interrupted a Council meeting to tell the priest a caller was on the phone about a person who had died and he blurted out, “He’ll still be there when I’m done here.” My next drift came when my dear wife was born again and it became too cumbersome for us to attend different services at different churches. She was considering joining the Church of the Open Bible, but we agreed to church shop and find a compromise between the Pentecostal and Catholic traditions. We settled on a Baptist church, first in Belvidere and later in Rockford, IL.

Back to the names.

I’m not sure why I started, but I was introduced to an informal men’s bible study. We met every Thursday morning for breakfast at a restaurant in Rockford. Over a bottomless coffee cup and an English muffin or bacon and eggs, we shared our week’s successes and failures, prayed with each other and dove into Scripture.

I wouldn’t recognize any of them today {nor they me}, but I remember the sessions. Here we were, 16 men from different professions, from different faiths, from different experiences gathered together for fellowship and study. We never got hung up on denominational doctrines, although we did broach potentially explosive issues.

What struck me most about this group, however, is how close we became. When I re-injured my back, I had visits from every one of them, either before or after surgery at home or while I was in the hospital.

That was my first real taste of ecumenism and it made a profound impression that has colored my Christian view ever since.

Ironically, my last “drift” in Illinois ended with my joining the Catholic press — go figure — in Toledo, OH, and Washington, DC. I took on the assignments as a ministry and my mantra was trying to bridge the denominational gap between Catholics and other denominations. My readers seemed to appreciate the initiative, but the conservative hierarchy was not quite as accepting … leading to another drift into the Reformed tradition {where I actually became an elder} and most recently as a Presbyterian.

I still don’t like denominational labels. I prefer to call myself a Christian … something I have done for well over 50 years.

Thanks to a group of 16 guys who commandeered the back of a restaurant in Rockford, I understood the meaning of 1 Corinthians 12 and I long for the day when all will be one.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: There is no greater legacy than to help someone else win.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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4 Responses to Ecumenism

  1. Judy says:

    Being a Good Catholic girl I was not allowed to attend one of my best friends Weddings……
    We as Christians have come a long way in many ways and sadly to say the World has gone the other way.


  2. joe nozzolio says:

    I was born Catholic, and still am a fairly loyal to this religion. When I was 7 or 8, my next door neighbor’s daughter was a Presbyterian church. My mom and dad were invited. I was attending parochial school, in the 2nd or 3rd grade. My teacher, a St. Joseph’s nun, warned us to never attend any services in non-catholic churches. I told my mom that she shouldn’t attend the wedding because it was probably a serious sin. She laughed and told me that there are many worse things that people do, including insulting good friends. After all, she said, she wasn’t converting, she just wanted to join in the celebration of her very good friend and neighbor. That was a life lesson to me – use common sense, and follow the golden rule – do unto others as you would want them to do to you.


    • Heard a few “don’t go there” stories, mostly from Catholics, but also from Protestant denominations who were “warned” about going into a Catholic church. Thanks for the comment. Take care of yourself. Joe


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