I have been refelcting on my personal history of ecumenical engagement. It has been a long one, and it began before I was born since my aunt, my mothers younger sister, married a Roman Catholic, and for a time became Catholic. So, as a child when we would visit my Aunt and Uncle we'd attend Mass. Then When I was 8 and 9 my family moved to France, we visited the cathedrals, and of course there was a Catholic church in the village where we lived. I seem to remeber visiting it alone on occasion, (which means I was allowed to wander arround the village unsupervised or maybe I simply convince my parrents to let me go inside when we walked by, but they didn't go in). then was our visit to Lourdes. It freaked my parents out, and we did not stay long, I was drawn to the place, I remeber wondering if in fact all those crutches and wheel chairs could actually mean all those people were healed. I sensed a holiness there and in the Cathedrals that was simultaneously foriegn and familiar. I did not understand my parents disgust except that it was bound up with the acusation of Mariolotry.
By the time we returned from France, My Aunt and Uncle had left the Roman Catholic church and began their long journey through various independent evangelical/charismatic churches, and when we visited them we of course went to what ever church they attended, usually where my Aunt served as Childrens director of the church. There never was much appealing about these churches to me, though certainly people loved God and were always very nice people. Then in high school I was friends with people from a variety of denominations and most of us were members of the Christian club on campus, the New Life Club. We talked alot about why there were different denominations and why there wasn't just one Christian church. Though some of us still held to the anti-catholic bias, so we also argued about whether or not Catholics were Christians, which was a little embarasing since there were Catholics who were members of the club. It was in High School that I first becaem aware of the World Council of Churches. I liked the idea that Christians came together to try to re-unify and come to agreement on things as Christians.
Then colege came and inter-religious dialogue came as I eventually became a Religious Studies major. But more significantly I was a part of a group (we toung in cheek called ourselves "The Society" which had the added bonus of freaking out the overly paranoid evangelical). At the time we were all in college and all part of some form of evangelical church (I in a Covenant church that was turning fundamentalist), though none of us were raised conservative evangelical. Our backgrounds varied from Mainline, to Armenian Apostolic, to Roman Catholic, to independent charismatic/evangelical. It was in this context that I began to really explore for my self catholicity.
Eventually it became clear that as I began attending the Inter-denominational (thus in some sense ecumenical) semianry, Fuller Theological Semianry, I was not welcome in the Covenant church that had become fundamentalist. I started attending and eventually joined a Presbyterian church in the area, about the same time I met Kate who is now my wife and a cradle Episcopalian and charismatic. Our courtship was interesting. After we were dating awhile we began attending St Marks Episcopal church in Altadena where the Rev Dr. Colin Brown was associate priest. Colin Brown was our favorite professor at Fuller.
After that time in Presbyterian and Episcopal churches I returned to the Covenant Church when we came to chicago for me to finish my degree at North Park Theological Semianry, where I end up doing my internship in a Japenese Presbyterian chruch called Church of Chrsit Presbyterian Church.
From there if you have read this blog you know the rest, and if you are new here simply follow the link in the side bar to Churhc of Jesus Chrsit Reconciler.
I find it inetesting that as I think about it that for most if not all of my life I have lived part of my life in the presence of christians of differing denominations. I was deeply impact very early on by Roman Catholicism. And except for the occasional anti-papist comment from an old Lutheran Pietist it seems to never ocured to any of my teachers in the faith to disuade me from making connections accross denominational lines. Admitedly it is a difficult thing for a Covenanter to claim that the Covenant holds the corner on Christian truth given our history, but still I find it interesting that to some degree ecumenism was encouraged in some fashion through ut my life.
Oh I forgot to say that I spent a year and a half during college attending various churches including Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. If I liked a church I would often spend at least a few weeks there. I spent Lent and Easter part of that year and a half in St Peter's Episcopal church in San Pedro, CA.