After years of service in the Independent Catholic Church, Rev. Liz and I found ourselves in a rather unique position in the final years of our ministry. While being Pastors of Saint Clare Pastoral Center, an independent Catholic community, we also served for three years in a pastoral role for the Mount Vernon First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). During that period and prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, our two communities shared an ecumenical worship service each Sunday on Zoom. It was a remarkable relationship that benefited both faith traditions and created a distinct ecumenical identity that aligned with the Mission Statement and Constitutional Preamble of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC), and the vision of unity found in both the Disciples of Christ, Council on Christian Unity, and the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis wrote of such relationships stating, “It is important to know each other better but also to recognize what the Spirit has shown in the other as a gift for us … We must walk united with our differences. There is no other way to become one. This is the way of Jesus.”
The relationship between Saint Clare Pastoral Center and the First Christian Church of Mount Vernon developed into a welcoming and inclusive experience that led to a better understanding of what unites us as the People of God and served as a living, breathing example of the work begun by the Catholics and Disciples of Christ Commission for Dialogue. In this lies our calling of working toward the “visible unity of the one church of God,” which was the original goal of the commission when it began work in 1977.
Although First Christian Church sold its building and ended its visible ministry at the end of 2021, Saint Clare Pastoral Center continued to provide a transitional and ecumenical worship service each Sunday on Zoom through August 2022. This provided a safe haven for FCC members while they transitioned into other faith communities. Since everyone was welcome at our gatherings, the work towards Christian unity and walking together in our differences continued. In November 2022, Rev. Liz and I retired from active ministry, the Pastoral Center closed, and Safe Haven was born. We changed the focus of our website to include reflecting on the weekly liturgical readings and intercessory prayer. Our ministry continues.