Like many pastors, I meet weekly with an ecumenical group of colleagues for lectionary study. This is not the first wonderful group of this kind in my years of ministry; I’ve been fortunate to participate in three of these. This group meets on Tuesday mornings at 8:30, rotating our gatherings between our different church buildings. In recent summers, when our schedules are less dependable, we have held our gatherings in a neighborhood coffee shop.
The group at this time includes 2 Disciples of Christ, 2 United Church of Christ, 2 Presbyterian, and 1 Episcopal Church pastors/priest. We are 3 women and 4 men. We are gay and straight. We are in our 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. We are high church and low church and somewhere in between. We are congregational pastors, hospice chaplain, and a director of an ecumenical urban ministry. Our congregations/ministries are all located within about a 2 mile radius — in the inner city.
The added gift is that our congregations have grown to share in ministry together through outreach, worship, and special events. Just last week, one of the Presbyterian congregations hosted the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper that was a fundraiser for our outreach ministry. Then all of the congregations shared in our “Ashes to Go” on the street on Ash Wednesday. And that evening, we shared in Ash Wednesday worship hosted at the Episcopal church. On Maundy Thursday, we will be at one of the UCC churches. And on Good Friday, we will all share in our annual “Way of the Cross Walk” through our neighborhood. Almost 40 years ago three of our congregations, along with another that is no longer in existence, developed the ecumenical urban ministry that we now all support (along with the support of many other congregations in the metropolitan area).
This morning, as we sat together in the library of our Disciples congregation studying our preaching text for this coming Sunday, I could not help but think of the amazing gift of this community of pastors and congregations. As pastors we support each other personally. We listen to and challenge each other. We laugh and we cry together. We are able to share and help each other work through difficult times in our congregations. As congregations, we grow and change and deepen in our ministry through relationship with each other.
I have been in lectionary groups that used a research approach, bringing a variety of resources from theological and biblical scholars to the text each week. That was a good approach. This group, however, approaches the text through Lectio Divina. I have grown to cherish the experience of group lectio and the prayerful, always fresh connection to the text that emerges from our time together.
This type of group cannot always be created. Some groups work and some do not. There are times and situations that are more or less conducive. Every group is different. But I am convinced that, through these relationships, the ministry of the Church is strengthened in ways we would never have imagined.
Thanks be to God for my dear, dear friends in ministry!