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Christian unity: 3 congregations divided by doctrine are one faith in worship

Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church
Most Holy Rosary Catholic ChurchRobert Henrich

Appearances might suggest that Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, First Baptist Church of Owego and Heart of God Christian Fellowship are about as far apart as three churches can get. Yet when Examiner worshipped with all three congregations recently, the experience was one not of division, but of common faith rooted in the same Gospel message, expressed in the same Spirit.

In diversity…
Worship space. Most Holy Rosary’s contemporary church was decorated with flowers and symbols of the liturgical season, as was the temporary meeting room being used by First Baptist while its flood-ravaged, historic church undergoes restoration. Heart of God, a country chapel-type space with a warm, caring feel to it, had no seasonal decorations.

Liturgy. The 8 a.m. Mass at Most Holy Rosary was celebrated as prescribed by the Catholic Roman Missal. A guitar accompanied a mix of contemporary and traditional music selections. In his homily Father Clarence spoke to the three scripture passages of the day (New American Bible Version), stressing the here-and-now presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

The First Baptist faithful were called into worship at 10 a.m. Piano and choir led congregational singing of a series of traditional hymns. Children's prayer time preceded Pastor Terry's sermon, "Solomon and His Prayers," based on the text of 1 Kings 3 (New International Version).

Meditative organ music continued past the 11 a.m. start time at Heart of God Fellowship, awaiting the arrival of a few regular members. Around 11:30, guitar-led contemporary songs of praise and worship opened the service, flowing into a period of spontaneous, unstructured singing and praying in tongues. After an antiphonal prayer and a reading from Isaiah, Chapter 55 (King James Version), Pastor Joy spoke on the power of God.

Underlying unity
No two sacred spaces, prayers, hymns, scripture readings or sermon messages were the same. In fact, no two worship styles, prayer languages, music styles or bible versions were the same. But adjusted for differences of style and language, every prayer could have been prayed, every hymn sung, every scripture read, every message delivered and received in any of the three services. At the most fundamental level there was here a unity that overwhelmed and trivialized the accidentals of appearance. There were three branches, fed by the same vine. For Most Holy Rosary Catholic, First Baptist of Owego and Heart of God Fellowship, what unites is profoundly greater than what divides.

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