Although we identify as Catholics, Rev. Liz and I find ourselves in a rather unique ministerial position. We serve as Pastors of St. Clare Pastoral Center, an independent Catholic community, while also serving the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as Associate Pastors. We share building space, have concurrent worship services, and join First Christian Church in the fellowship time that follows. In addition, we celebrate joint services together several times a year, especially during Easter and Christmas.
It is a remarkable relationship that benefits both faith traditions and creates a distinct ecumenical identity that aligns with the Mission Statement and Constitutional Preamble of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, and the vision of unity found in both the Disciples of Christ, Council on Christian Unity, and the Second Vatican Council.
Decree on Ecumenism: “The attainment of union is the concern of the whole Church, faithful and shepherds alike. This concern extends to everyone, according to their talent, whether it be exercised in their daily Christian life or in their theological and historical research. This concern itself reveals already to some extent the bond between all Christians and it helps toward that full and perfect unity which the kindness of God wills for humanity.” (Decree on Ecumenism, Chapter 2, 5. The Practice of Ecumenism, gender-neutral edit).
Pope Francis wrote, “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.”
Barton Stone claimed for Disciples: “Let Christian unity be our polar star.”
Alexander Campbell proclaimed that “The union of Christians is essential to the conversion of the world.”
The relationship between the St. Clare Pastoral Center and the First Christian Church of Mount Vernon has developed into a welcoming and inclusive experience that is leading to a better understanding of what unites us as the People of God, and serves 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.
"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."