Q: “What are you? Catholic? Protestant? Episcopal? Lutheran?…”
A: The short answer is. “Yes. All those and more.”
In spite of living in an age where we are connected more and more by technology, humanity is growing more and more fragmented, society more polarized, families more torn, and individuals more isolated.
We at St. Christopher’s believe that God is doing something different. God has created us for community and for diversity, for wholesome connection to one another, to our very selves, and even to God. And Jesus with his Gospel (“Good Story” or “Good News”) is at the very heart of what God is doing and how God is doing it.
In short, God is creating a Heavenly community on earth. We are in fact (and also imperfectly) part of that community by following the ways of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only-begotten child.
To that end, we are a community of Jesus-followers of many backgrounds who are sponsored by the Episcopal and Lutheran denominations. We find there are great treasures and deep wisdom in both the Episcopal and Lutheran traditions, both of which are part of the reformed/reforming* catholic** branch of Christianity. We are loved by, guided by, and part of these two groups of Christians. And in addition, we recognize that there is much to be gained from other traditions as well – Catholics of all kinds, the Orthodox churches, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Baptists, Moravians, Quakers, Mennonites, and all the rest.
Many from beyond the Lutheran & Episcopal traditions have found their spiritual home at St. Christopher’s. We invite you, if you are searching for a spiritual home, to make your home here with us, or if you have a spiritual home already, you are invited to call this your “home-away-from-home.”
Here we find and here we are, God’s community.
In the Bible, St. Paul tells us about Jesus-style community saying,
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (From Romans 12:9-13. See Romans chapter 12 for St. Paul’s whole take on Jesus-style community. It’s worth the read and it’s what we strive for at St. Christopher’s.)
* We take seriously the reforms inspired by the Holy Spirit during and after the Protestant Reformation.
** We take seriously the witness, faith, heritage, and practice of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit throughout the last 2000 years.
Q: “So how exactly does that work?”
A: Well, nn practical terms, there are many similarities between Lutheran and Episcopalians (also between these two traditions and others like Roman Catholics and Methodists). But here are some ways that we have come to share lovingly as a Christ-centered, loving community.
- We ‘blend’ our worship and music. Our traditions share many things in common, but where we differ we take turns. Some Sundays for the confession of faith we’ll say the Apostles’ Creed (Lutheran practice) and some Sundays we use the Nicene Creed (Episcopal practice). On the same Sunday the general confession of sin might be from the Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal) and the prayers at Holy Communion from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Lutheran). Sometimes parts of our service come from other traditions or other parts of the world. (Romans 12:1-2)
- No one is required to be Lutheran or Episcopalian to participate worship, activities, or even receive the Sacrament of Baptism or Communion. (Romans 12:4-5)
- We take turns with our clergy. Our previous pastor was Lutheran. Our current priest is Episcopalian (but he went to both a Lutheran and an Episcopal seminary!). His successor, when the time comes, will be Lutheran, and so on. (Romans 12:6-8)
- We sometimes blend our terminology. The Episcopal Church would call our governing board a “Bishop’s Committee” and the Lutherans would call it a “Council.” So we have a “Bishop’s Council.”
- We get to have TWO bishops, one Lutheran from the Southwestern Washington Synod (ELCA) and one from the Diocese of Olympia (The Episcopal Church). “Double the trouble, double the fun!” 😉 Woops! Did we say that? (Romans 12:6-8)
- We get double the resources, programs, choices, and friends! (compare Romans 12:6-8)
- We financially support the missions and operations of both the Southwestern Washington Synod and the Diocese of Olympia, but usually at 50% the rate other congregations since we have two families we support. (Romans 12:13)
- Honoring the ‘other’ above ourselves. Generally speaking, when a rule from one side of the family differs from the other, we’ve committed ourselves to love and honor each other by choosing to follow the stricter of the two requirements. This is how we “love one another with mutual affection; outdo[ing] one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)