Some churchgoers may have been surprised to see a robed woman adorning the altar and presenting the homily at the 4 p.m. Mass at Gesu Church this past Sunday, but having a Lutheran pastor speak was part of a more than century-old celebration aimed at promoting Christian unity.
The Rev. Jessica Short, pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Lutheran campus pastor, participated in the Mass through Marquette’s involvement in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The celebration began in 1908 by a small Episcopal Church in New York, but it has grown into an annual worldwide event in which various Christian denominations interact and exchange ministers with one another.
In her homily, Short broached the topic of centuries old differences between the Catholic and Lutheran churches and preached the value of tolerance and patience.
“I am honored and grateful to speak before you today,” she said. “We must not attempt to force views on one another, but take part in open-minded discussion.”
Short focused on love and the role it plays within our everyday lives as well as the acceptance different religions should have for each other.
Campus Ministry sponsored Short’s participation, joining the worldwide effort to discuss similarities and differences among the many Christian sects. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee also endorses the spiritual week on their Web site, though their Ecumenical/Interfaith Office could not be reached for comment.
Along with Short speaking at Gesu, the Rev. G. Simon Harak offered a reflection at the Lutheran service in the Alumni Memorial Union Sunday night.
Harak emphasized the importance of different groups valuing the thinking and traditions of each another.
“It is necessary that we pray with one another,” he said. “Prayer is the foundation of our shared experience, and through it we come to know each other.”
Harak said the prayer week is a historical effort based in scripture, and that the importance of this unity to Jesus made unity a priority for all Christians. He added that common work such as service projects can serve as common ground for different religious communities.
“In the end, it is fun,” Harak said. “I’m glad we do it. I look forward to praying with one another and hope that we can all find a shared project.”