Worshippers who thronged to "Together We Serve," the Sacramento celebration of full communion between The United Methodist Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, were treated to a rich experience involving inspired liturgical worship and virtuoso music that featured musicians and worship leaders from both denominations.
Special music by the Voices of Faith choir led up to the 7 p.m. service on Sunday, November 15, filling the 64-year old Sanctuary of Sacramento's First United Methodist Church with resonant tones. The choir, headed by Precious Craft, director of Music at Shattuck Avenue UMC in Oakland, also performed "Total Praise," a Gospel Acclamation, during the service.
Other music - from the combined choirs of FUMC and St. John's Lutheran Church, Sacramento; the St. John's Handbell Choir; FUMC Brass Quartet; violinist Dorothy Klischeweitz; cantor Jessica Reveles of St. John's; the Tongan Choir of the Tongan UM Fellowship in Sacramento; and organists from both FUMC and St. John's - also soared.
First UMC was established in Sacramento in 1849 and has been at its present site at 21st and "J" Streets since 1945. Its pastor, the Rev. Kathi McShane, told the congregation that since St. John's, now at 17th and "L" Streets, has been its neighbor for a long time (since 1867), it may seem odd "to make such a fuss of being neighborly." But she added that it is "an altogether different thing to be celebrating the full communion of two entire denominations." (Note: See related story, 'A Discussion on the Meaning of Full Communion' Video Now Available, to learn more about what full communion means.)
The pastor of St. John's, Rev. Scot Sorensen, echoed her sentiments, saying the celebration was "to mark, officially, what has been going on unofficially in local areas around the country … for years." He said United Methodist and Lutheran congregations will continue to be partners in many shared mission and ministry projects.
After the processional, to the hymn, "Together We Serve," from which the service drew its title, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., bishop of the San Francisco Episcopal Area and resident bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, greeted the distinctly ecumenical congregation.
Bishop Mark W. Holmerud of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA delivered the sermon, saying he believes there indeed may be certain gifts and blessings which are unique to some denominations, and that, he said, "can be an important witness, as well."
"Some denominations have a way of talking about some way of following Christ that ends up being a gift, for those that follow Christ in another way. It's not a contest - it's an opportunity to add to, the total witness of the Christian community … to those that don't yet know Christ," he said.
The two bishops together administered the service of Thanksgiving and Communion.
Prayers were offered in Japanese (by the Rev. Motoe Yamada), Spanish (by the Rev. Angel Betancourt), Chinese (by the Rev. Ernest Kan), and English (by the Rev. Bobby Jones). An offering was taken to benefit Family Promise of Sacramento and the Faith and Homeless Families Initiative.
The service was planned by the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the UMC's Cal-Nevada Annual Conference, and the Commission on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs of the ELCA's Sierra Pacific Synod.
(Watch for a video of the service to be uploaded to REEL Witness next week.)
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