Lutheran-Catholic service held in Madison Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Nov. 09, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

Fr. Robert Evenson, left, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, and Pastor Chris Enstad, pastor of Good Shepherd Church, took part in a joint evening prayer service on October 28. (Catholic Herald photo/Mary C. Uhler)

MADISON -- St. Maria Goretti Catholic Parish and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church ELCA have been neighbors and partners in the Madison community for over 60 years.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, they came together for the first time in a joint evening prayer service on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Fr. Robert Evenson, pastor of St. Maria Goretti, and Pastor Chris Enstad of Good Shepherd were the worship leaders.

Welcome from pastor

“We welcome all of our brothers and sisters and Father Bob. We’re so thrilled to come together in a spirit of unity,” said Pastor Enstad.

He mentioned that Father Evenson reached out to him soon after becoming pastor at St. Maria Goretti this summer. “He asked, ‘What can we do together?’ This service came together. It plants a seed for future work.”

The service was based on Marty Haugen’s Holden Evening Prayer. It included hymns, prayers, readings, and messages from both pastors.

Sharing celebration

In his reflections, Father Evenson said, “It is a joy to be with you all. On behalf of the community of St. Maria Goretti, I want to thank you, Pastor Chris, your staff, and the community of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for welcoming us to share in this celebration, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We are honored to be here with you, in your sanctuary, with your congregation tonight.

“I also want to thank you and your congregation for being such a strong witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have truly been a bright light, shining forth God’s mercy, love, and compassion.

“Your Christian example has challenged us to be better followers of Jesus Christ, just as your tradition has helped us Catholics to be better Christians over the past 500 years.”

‘Eyelash to eyelash’

In discussing the theme of “Reformation and Reconcilation,” Father Evenson noted that the second graders at St. Maria Goretti have been learning about reconciliation. In one of the classes, the teacher asked the children what the word reconcilation meant.

“One child had evidently heard the etymology of the word, perhaps from an older sibling or her parents. Anxiously, she held up her hand until she was called upon, and she quickly blurted out her answer. ‘It means to be brought eyelash to eyelash with God!’ The teacher and I were quite surprised by the astute answer from this second grader.”

Father Evenson explained that the Greek root of the word does indeed refer to eyelashes and being brought together. He said that this is the image that St. Paul was trying to communicate to the people in Corinth in the first reading.

“He wanted them to reframe their conflicts and think of themselves as being restored eyelash to eyelash with God, so as to be true children of God.” And being restored to God, “they in turn would be restored eyelash to eyelash with one another.”

Father Evenson pointed to an address by Pope Francis to over a thousand Lutheran pilgrims in Rome. “Pope Francis recognized that we Lutherans and Catholics are together being brought eyelash to eyelash in Christ.” The Holy Father said in that address, “What unites us is much more than what divides us.”

Father Evenson concluded, “My dear sisters and brothers, may the Lord bless us, protect us, and guide us as we journey forth together -- reconciling the world to God through Jesus Christ.”

‘Be reconciled’

In his reflections, Pastor Enstad noted that St. Paul was writing to a church in conflict in Corinth. “They were arguing; they were in conflict with each other and Paul.”

But, he said, St. Paul kept telling them that Christ calls us to love our neighbors. “The command of Paul was, ‘Be reconciled. Start living as the people that you already are.’”

He added, “Today, we still disagree about some issues, but to the issue of loving our neighbors, there will be no division.”

Musicians at service

Pastor Enstad and Tracy Dahl were cantors. Choirs from Good Shepherd and St. Maria Goretti sang for the service, with Dennis McKinley as music director. Other musicians included Eileen Porter, piano; Joanne Berg and Melanie Preston, flute; and the Good Shepherd Choral Bells directed by Anne Meyer.

The Offertory donation went to Joining Forces for Families, which helps children, youth, and families in Dane County.

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