Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Story of the Common Ground DVD

The DVD, Study Guide, and Book can be ordered HERE along with more information.

Click the title above, or subscribe top right.

An amazing ecumenical thing is happening just North of Detroit.

The story begins with a large Evangelical Church in Troy, MI called Kensington Community Church. It is modeled successfully after Bill Hybels' Willow Creek Church near Chicago. Kensington has been growing by leaps and bounds under the leadership of a number of humble and astute men and women and its founding pastor Steve Andrews. Before Pam and I converted to Catholicism, we occasionally attended Kensington (even though it was an hour away) principally for the good music, mini-dramas, practical teachings, and presentation excellence.

A couple of years ago some members and leaders at Kensington became disturbed by the bad rap that a number of the ex-Catholics attending Kensington were giving Catholicism. While the leadership was not going to become Catholic by any means, they definitely considered Catholicism a significant part of Christianity and thought there was a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding taking place.

Kensington's Spiritual Formation Director (Dan Kopp) started a mid-week small group in his home to talk about the common ground shared by Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants -- and he refused to allow any Catholic bashing. Dan also created a “Pastors & Priests” seminar that he teaches at Kensington, which looks at what Catholics and Protestants believe and why – including the Pope, the Virgin Mary, confession, and purgatory. This seminar has been going on for a few years now and has seen hundreds attend.

In the Spring of 2006, at nearby St. Anastasia Catholic Church (pastored by Fr. John Riccardo) a "dialogue" was held before an SRO crowd where spokespersons for Catholicism and Protestantism presented talks on the similarities and differences between the two faith traditions. Shortly after that Fr. Riccardo spoke from the Kensington stage along with Kensington staff on "The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction."

Next came a DVD produced by Kensington's production department where Pastor Steve Andrews interviewed Father John Riccardo before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Anastasia. Pastor Andrews asked about, and Fr. Riccardo cleared up, many of the misunderstandings that Evangelicals and Protestants have toward Catholicism. Fr. John also suggested some important things that Catholics can learn from Protestants.

Large portions of the interview were played before the Kensington Congregation on two Sunday mornings, and over the next few weeks over 2,000 copies of the DVD were sold through the Kensington Church's bookstore. It was on that second Sunday that I began negotiations with Kensington to release the DVD, and we, at Nineveh's Crossing (see link), will release the DVD internationally sometime in January 2007 under an exclusive distribution agreement with Kensington. For my conservative Catholic readers who may wonder if this an exercise in marginalizing Catholicism for the sake of ecumenical pats on the back, Fr. Riccardo's explanations of Catholicism (on this DVD) have been reviewed and approved as being faithful to the magisterial teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. (see Common Ground)

Then, last night (Dec 15, 2006), at St. Anastasia, the two churches gathered for an evening of prayer. The two pastors lit several candles placed on a small table before the altar before the service began, but Steve Andrews was having a very difficult time lighting his candle. Finally he gave up and commented over his open microphone, "I guess I wasn't suppose to be Catholic." (We laughed with him.) Fr. John helped Steve get the candle lit, but in the process knocked it to the floor, which Steve retrieved, and the process started all over. It was both funny and poignant illustration of these two ministers of the Gospel, neither perfect but both trying their best to honor God and lead their congregations to ask God that we might be one.

About 500 attended. There was music from both churches, both pastors gave short talks on prayer, Scripture was read (Luke 11:5-13), members of both congregations led us in a series of prayers for a variety of common concerns, and a basket filled with written petitions from the congregation was brought forward and placed before the altar. Then, the two men knelt before the altar and the Blessed Sacrament beyond, we all knelt with them for an extended time of silent prayer asking God to hear us, heal us, and unite us, so that the world would know that Jesus was sent by the Father. Both pastors made it very clear that as Jesus prayed in John 17, the lack of unity of Christians in the world, made Christians oftentimes the laughing stock of the world and hindered our ability to proclaim the Gospel effectively.

Just before we recited the Lord's Prayer together, a layman who organizes the small groups that are now meeting from both churches presented both pastors with purple stoles, the kind that priest's use when they hear confessions. Our pastors put the stoles on proudly, and you see a picture with this posting.

It was a time of healing and exhilaration. There are still differences that divide us. But a great deal of the misunderstanding and miscommunication between these two large congregations is slowly dissolving away; and hopefully the community around us will know we are Christians by our love.

1 comment:

  1. We have started watching this dvd in our Catholic Bible study. It is one of the best dialogues I've had the experience of watching between Catholics and Protestants. I would highly recommend it for everyone!

    God Bless!