Members of Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., watched as the ashes of their confessed sins written on paper were mixed with the ashes from their neighboring Roman Catholic church’s written prayer requests, symbolizing the churches’ unity as they celebrated Ash Wednesday together.
The joint service that included more than 2,000 people was just one of many ways Madison Square and St. Francis Xavier churches celebrated both churches’ 100th anniversary as one body.
The two churches, founded in 1914 only about a half mile apart, came together, thanks in part to Ken and Claudie Vos. The two are members of Madison Square, and also participate in St. Francis Xavier’s monthly healing services, where Claudie’s son is a member.
“We were the common link,” Ken said.
When they heard St. Francis Xavier was turning 100 the same year as their church, they knew it would be a great way to bring the two congregations together. After suggesting a joint celebration, Ken and Claudie were happy to see enthusiasm from Rev. Jose Luis Quintana (St. Francis Xavier) and Rev. David Beelen, (Madison Square).
“Both the leaders acted immediately to make this a reality,” Claudie said.
The two congregations also shared pulpits and worship teams in February and broke bread together after the Ash Wednesday service.
“Breaking bread was a great way to share what we have in common and not to focus on differences,” Claudie said. “It’s all about Jesus.”
Beelen added, “So many people have expressed how this effort has given them hope for unity in the body of Christ.”
Even after the centennial celebration has passed, the two churches hope to continue working together, especially as they work in their shared neighborhood.
“We have a very diverse neighborhood and the increased diversity of our two churches enables us to reach our neighborhood much more effectively,” said Beelen.