Worshipping together took on a whole new meaning this month at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where Father Chris Brathwaite called for a midsummer ecumenical service.
Brathwaite said the Haines City church’s ecumenical service on Sunday, July 2, far exceeded the expectations of many as the rector called on people of all faiths to come together as one and worship the same God, learning what He would have us do in His kingdom.
An ecumenical service entails promoting Christian unity worldwide through various forms of outreach.
“Every Sunday, the congregation looks forward to a writing from me, the rector, about things relating to the church, or just things in general,” Brathwaite said. “A while back, I wrote about the possibility of an ecumenical service with the three expressions to God that emanate from the property, and on Sunday, July 2, we did just that.”
Joined by Pastor David Curry III from Gateway International Ministries in Davenport and Senior Pastor April Goins of Mt. Zion Free Will Baptist Church at Piney Grove in Pierson, Brathwaite said as a priest it is foolhardy for him to believe that God’s people are Episcopalians only.
“God’s people are all those whom God has made,” Brathwaite said. “Making space for all God’s people is what we ought to be doing every waking day of our lives reaching out – especially to those who are willing and able to burn a light in the darkness of this city – so that together we may spiritually illuminate this city for God’s goodness.”
Brathwaite elaborated on his thinking with an interesting analogy.
“On any given Sunday, if we look at this parking lot, we will see many cars – possibly no two alike. But there is one salient reason for the cars: to be a means of transportation,” he said. “Some like a big car; some like a compact car; some like red, blue, white or even black cars; but the purpose of the car is a means of transportation – how we get to where we want to go.
“So, the way we approach the throne of God may be different, but whether we are Baptist, Pentecostal, Episcopalian or other, our particular denomination or worship style does not matter as long as we come as one people to worship the same God and learn what He would have us do in His kingdom,” Brathwaite said.
The St. Mark’s rector said activating the Holy Spirit that lies within us is our means of worship to God.
“Without the Holy Spirit, we need not fool ourselves; we would be an out-of-tune cymbal marching in the orchestra of life,” Brathwaite said. “And even as we become members in a soldier band for Christ – with many instruments – we are to march in conformity because it is Christ to whom we journey. I pray that we will continue to embrace these great opportunities that we have to worship the one and only God.”
The service made a profound impression on many, including the Rev. Dr. William Guthrie of Haines City: “It was a lovely service and a true worship experience. Glad to be of help and to enjoy the fellowship afterward.”
Joslyn Williams said: “What a wonderful day of worship and fellowship at church today. We were all blessed. Everyone was happy, and I know that God is at St. Mark’s every Sunday.”
Brathwaite said it’s a sign of the times that there is a need for more prayer, collaboration and focus on building the kingdom of God.
“(Our service) was symbolic of the church of the future,” the St. Mark’s rector said. “Three congregations worshipping our Lord in a service that one can say really touched the hearts of the people. Sunday after Sunday, we in the Episcopal Church pray that we all may be one. This prayer does not speak only to the person next to you in the pew, but we are praying to God for the oneness in and among the people who have decided to follow Him.
“When Jesus said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my church,’ denominations were not part of the narrative,” Brathwaite said. “But we know that heaven smiles when those who are called by His name come together to offer thanks for the immeasurable blessings of this life and the opportunity to spread the gospel.”