On Jan. 23, it made me glad to live in Gilroy. An exchange took
place between the mainline churches in which pastors swapped
pulpits to bring about greater unity and understanding between
Catholics, Protestant and members of different Christian
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
On Jan. 23, I was glad to live in Gilroy. An exchange took place between the mainline churches in which pastors swapped pulpits to bring about greater unity and understanding between Catholics, Protestant and members of different Christian denominations.
Father Tad Terembula of St. Mary’s Catholic Parish switched places with Pastor Ron Koch of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Hecker Pass. Father Dan Derry of St. Mary’s preached at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Father Terry Burley of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church spoke at the United Methodist Church and Pastor Eric Cho of the United Methodist Church preached at St. Mary’s.
The local Ministerial Association, in which clergy meet together once a month, coordinated this event which plunged pastors of various denominations into unfamiliar currents. This short immersion gave them each a feel for the personality of other congregations, music and style.
There was a bit of humorous culture shock for some participants, such as Father Terry being subjected to the Methodist Praise Band’s rendition of “Thank God I’m a Methodist,” sung to the tune for “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
He took it all in good humor, laughing at lines such as, “Now if you want to eat just come ’round here/37 potlucks already this year/Just the thought of tuna casserole makes me shed a tear/Thank God I’m a Methodist/Well, Lutherans and Episcopalians are fine/We’ve got our differences, but I don’t mind/Like we use grape juice and they use wine/too bad I’m a Methodist!”
“I have only known Protestant form when it comes to worshipping God, so forgive me if I seem like a misfit,” Rev. Eric of the United Methodist Church addressed the large crowd at St. Mary’s early Mass.
“I would like to think that just like the first disciples in the Bible, I am beginning a journey with you feeling rather startled, for I have much to learn. If anything, I would like to get to know you better.”
As a sign of unity, all the participating pastors agreed to use the same passage from the New Testament book of Matthew as the basis for their talks: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
It is referring to Israel’s need for help in a time of darkness characterized by living in oppression under Roman rule. But it also refers to the darkness of living in unenlightened times, and the way God calls out individuals to become a light in that darkness for others.
Father Terry talked about the need to be a light for others in places where the light has gone out. He said it’s important to keep your own faith strong because “you can’t give away what you ain’t got.”
I find Gilroy so refreshing in the way its people of faith work together in cooperation and helpfulness with each other as much as possible.
When you take the time to visit other peoples’ places of worship and of service, you realize just how much we all have in common with each other. It’s inspiring to realize just how many people want to come together in peaceful ways to foster greater understanding of each other.
In the pulpit exchange, you get the best from each participant, as each one strives to give a glimpse of what he or she has to offer. The Ministerial Association is hopeful that more denominations will participate in the future to bring more people together.
“I am honored to participate with all churches in the endeavor to remind the community of the common core that we all share,” Pastor Eric said.
“We have begun to emphasize what unites us rather than those things that still separate us,” Father Dan added. “May God bless our simple attempts to create a bit more unity within Christianity and may he foster ‘friendship’ that draws us all to work together in order to live out our faith and values by our work for peace and justice, by our sharing of the world’s blessings with the poor and needy, as we are witnesses to Jesus’ message of salvation, love for one another and care for our world.”
Father Terry put it this way in the last line of his sermon: “Are you ready to turn the light on?”