By John Gillespie
Special to The CS&T
Some 200 Catholics and Protestants in northwestern Chester County gathered to worship and give thanks Sunday, Nov. 23 in the latest in a series of ecumenical services founded on a shared interest in the Scriptures and works of charity.
The event was hosted by St. Peter Parish in West Brandywine and its pastor, Father Michael J. Fitzpatrick, who welcomed the seven visiting pastors from neighboring Protestant churches.
The brief liturgy included readings from the book of Deuteronomy and Luke’s Gospel on Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers.
Rev. William J. Wisneski of Honey Brook Presbyterian Church preached on the need for thankfulness. Thanksgiving was the theme of the service in keeping with the holiday season and end of the harvest. The opening hymn was “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” followed by the responsorial psalm, “I will always thank the Lord.”
The pastors meet every Tuesday to discuss the upcoming Sunday Scripture readings. The churches share the same Gospel and New Testament readings, according to Rev. Thomas Pumphrey of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Only the Old Testament readings may differ, he explained.
The churches perform charitable work through Steeple to People that distributes canned goods to the needy and the St. Vincent DePaul Society. The group made a significant contribution to the Old Amish community of Nickel Mines in Lancaster County following the kidnapping and killing of five school-age children Oct. 2, 2006.
Father Fitzpatrick noted the unusual degree of cooperation and support among the churches in northwestern Chester County, especially in the sharing of prayer services and community outreach.
“There is a greater understanding that we need to respect each other’s beliefs and faith traditions and to heal old wounds,” he said.
The Archdiocese, through its Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, encourages collaboration with Christian and non-Christian communities through education and dialogue.
Sister Judith Kreipe, I.H.M., director of the office, said such collaboration served the “common good” and the will of God. “We hope it will be a growing practice,” she said.
Participants at Sunday night’s service included: Rev. Dr. Mark Atkinson, Fairview Presbyterian Church; Rev. James “Andy” Curtis, Forks of the Brandywine Evangelical Presbyterian Church; Rev. David McMillan, Hibernia United Methodist Church; Rev. Scott Friedgen-Veitch, Honey Brook United Methodist Church; Rev. Wisneski; Rev. Richard Moore, Living God Lutheran Church; Rev. Pumphrey; and Father Fitzpatrick.
John Gillespie is a member of St. Bridget Parish and former reporter for the Philadelphia Evening & Sunday Bulletin.