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Breaking Down the Walls that Divide

Too often, our world can be defined by the sides that we take. We can be fragmented across so many lines, even among people of faith. Yet God’s work of reconciliation unites and brings together around us, an example of which was seen recently at St. Mary’s Episcopal in Haddon Heights.

On Sunday March 2, 2014, Rostered Leaders and Congregations of the Southwest Cluster of the New Jersey Synod gathered with our siblings in Christ in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey via St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Haddon Heights, as well as LCMS’ Martin Luther Chapel in Pennsauken, to share in a Hymn Festival benefiting Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts through Episcopal Relief and Development. This event was first developed by Larry DePasquale, Associate in Ministry (AiM) and music director at St. Stephen Lutheran in Woodbury. He had served at St. Mary’s Episcopal in the past, and was still connected to the people there through a regional choral group. Out of that discussion, an opportunity to worship, celebrate the gift of music, and help our sisters and brothers across the world took effect.

It is a great witness for a catholic and united Body of Christ. It has been almost fifteen years since Called to Common Mission brought together the ELCA and the Episcopal Church, and this event shows that those connections can have local implications. As well, our separation from our Lutheran sisters and brothers can be heartbreaking, but at this event, pastors and laypeople from across these denominations worshipped and celebrated communion together. Rev. Lucy Schottelkorb, Southwest Cluster co-counselor, said, “”It was beautiful to gather as one to celebrate the musical ways God’s people have lifted voices of praise to God over the centuries, as well as to be united as one around God’s gift of grace at the communion table–sisters and brothers from around our community connected to those around the world.”

And it was a collaborative effort. Members of Martin Luther Chapel formed a brass ensemble, St. Mary’s provided a bountiful reception, and Larry DePasquale played the organ. It was an amazing way for gifts to be shared, worship to be celebrated, and support to be provided.

Those gathered raised $1456.00 for those who are still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, and there are plans to continue this great work to benefit the ELCA Malaria Campaign and the South Jersey food bank. As well, they are looking for other congregations and other denominations that can be a part of these events that help to not only bring the people of God together, but also benefit those who are hurting.

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