I had a delightful time in the hills of Pennsylvania last Thursday giving the annual ecumenical lecture at Mt. Aloysius College in Cresson, PA. It was called “A More Ecumenical Paul: The Jewish, Catholic, Reformed, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Anabaptist (and more) Apostle” (the more was meant to be open-ended, but I ended up focusing on Paul the ecologist). We looked at texts that highlight themes from Paul that have been especially noticed by these various traditions in order to see Paul more as a contributor to Christian unity-in-diversity. We ended with some common, and some not-so-common, themes that emerge from these texts.
Although/because Cresson is super-rural, this small Catholic college draws people for this event from a 50-mile radius or more. Among those in attendance were the current and soon-to-be-appointed Catholic bishops, the Lutheran bishop, the Brethren in Christ Bishop, the Presbyterian presbytery exec, and a whole lot of other really fine people. The spirit of ecumenical openness and cooperation was palpable.
Perhaps the great surprise of the day was being introduced to the college’s ecumenical studies collection in its library, a room full of 18,000 top-notch books and reference materials in theological studies, almost all donated by one retired Lutheran pastor–bought specifically to have a theological library in rural Pennsylvania. I was bowled over by its size and scope. Another grace-filled instance of “bloom where you are planted.”