Witness to unity won on the cross
by Rob Edwards
A taste of heaven. That’s what I believe the Christian community will experience again this Easter at Rockhampton in Queensland, about 600 kilometres north of Brisbane.
When we get to heaven, we will gather together with all of the saints around the throne and worship the King. This is really something to look forward to: no divisions, no hatred; complete unity, pure love, holy togetherness.
But every now and then, you come across something heavenly on earth, a little taste of the glory to come.
That’s how Easter has been for us for the past two years at Rockhampton – a little taste of heaven. It sounds difficult – in fact, I said it would never work!
Despite my view, the idea of a combined churches’ Easter celebration was proposed for Easter Sunday morning. The idea was cooked up by members of the Rockhampton ecumenical ministers’ fellowship.
The church ministers in Rockhampton gather for lunch once a month. We pray together and each of us has the opportunity to share our highs and lows of ministry. We have been intentionally working on much closer relationships between ministers and our churches. As a result of this trust and friendship, the idea bubbled to the surface that we needed to do something big. Something that would say to the community, ‘this is important, something worth taking notice of!’ And so the idea of a combined Easter service was born.
The problems were obvious. Who would want to give up their Easter service to join with other churches?
But we first gave it a go in 2016.
There were the obvious challenges. What would we do about holy communion? And, what about giving up our own individual services? How would we make sure everyone got to know about it?
But the chance of potential for good was far too evident to let it go by without giving it our best shot. So we, Calvary Lutheran Church in Rockhampton, decided that we were in. The Lutherans would be a part of it.
It actually wasn’t too difficult once we set our minds to it. We started the day with a barbecue breakfast, then held a short holy communion service at 8.30am in our own church. We moved on to the local Baptist church ready to begin the main worship service at 9.30am. The effort was well worth it, and the mild inconvenience was swamped by the excitement and sense of celebration.
The result? Five churches officially took part and about 850 people got together for worship, with musicians, choir, readers and preachers, all from different churches celebrating in a way that would shake the town. Overall, there were Church of Christ, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Brethren, Peace Christian Church, Assemblies Of God, Covenant Church and Anglican representatives, and possibly a few Uniting Church members as well.
The vibrant and jubilant worship service went for 90 minutes and, when it was over, people mingled, and shared morning tea and fellowship together. Some discovered for the first time that their dentist, their pharmacist, or others in their community whom they deal with on a daily basis, worshipped the same God, though maybe in a slightly different way, and they were part of the same Christian family.
Pastor Rob Edwards is Parish Pastor for Rockhampton Queensland, including Calvary Lutheran Church Rockhampton and Yeppoon Living Waters Fellowship.