The people of Geneva Campus (Christian Reformed) Church in Madison, Wisc., commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with the intent of moving from conflict to communion. On October 31, approximately 70 people from the Geneva Campus Church, Luther Memorial Church, and St. Paul’s University Catholic Church, all in Madison, participated in an Ecumenical Service of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The service was partially modeled after aservice of Common Prayer for the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden on October 31, 2016. Pastor Michael Winnowski of Geneva Campus Church, who organized the event, said, “I thought it would be an interesting and beautiful way to come together. . . . I modified [the service] a bit to make it for three officiating churches instead of two.”
The pastors from the Lutheran church opened and closed the service. The Catholic priest lead a prayer of thanksgiving, acknowledging the theological and spiritual insights Christians received because of the Reformation. The Christian Reformed pastors lead a prayer of repentance, remembering spiritual ancestors who focused on what separated them from others and the destruction this caused.
Winnowski preached on unity, quoting Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, “I am confident of one thing: the way to draw closer to one another is to draw closer to Christ. . . . It will also mean doing more of what we are doing today: gathering together, praying, and, to the greatest extent that we can, participating in a greater unity—a unity that is an ‘already’, but also a ‘not yet’.”
Geneva Campus Church has previously participated in Ash Wednesday services with both the Catholic and Lutheran churches. They also have partnered with the Lutheran church for the past 10 years in reaching out to people in Madison who are experiencing homelessness.
Winnowski understands the necessity of pursuing Christian unity in his community. “I would say in an increasingly pluralistic society and non-religious setting, Christian unity becomes that more urgent. Our witness to Christ in that fragmented setting won’t be very effective.”