Northshore churches seek ongoing interfaith efforts
“It felt like Pentecost.”
That’s how Rev. Rob White, pastor of Covington Presbyterian Church, described an ecumenical prayer service held Jan. 23 at Mary Queen of Peace Church in Mandeville.
“I could feel the presence of God with all of us together,” he said, adding that as a fairly new pastor in the area, he is looking forward to more ecumenical efforts in the community.
If all goes well, he will not have to look far. One of the motivating factors behind the prayer service, in addition to celebrating Mary Queen of Peace’s 25th anniversary, was the hope it would help reignite a ministerial alliance in western St. Tammany, said Father Ronald Calkins, pastor of Mary Queen of Peace.
“It was an awesome evening,” Father Calkins said. “I felt such a spirit of unity. I am hoping we can move ahead with other ways to work together.”
He is not alone. Father Buddy Noel, parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Lake Church and ecumenical officer for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, challenged the clergy in attendance to accept an offer to meet again on Feb. 21 to discuss the ministerial alliance.
Noting that the prayer service was scheduled during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Father Noel also challenged everyone in the congregation to take time this year to pray with those of other denominations. “You will be blessed,” he said.
Desire to serve needy
Father Noel and Rev. Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church of Covington, spoke at the service, and they each focused not on denominational differences but on Christians’ common desire to serve the least of our brothers and sisters in the name of Christ.
“We are different, but we are one in Christ,” Rev. Bailey said. There was a time, he added, when we were “different but separate. … That time is gone.”
As Christians, we need each other in order to confront “the great challenge before us,” Rev. Bailey said. The challenge is the fact that in our communities, “the name of Christ is not often mentioned in a loving, praiseworthy way.”
As Christians, he said, we must work to change that. “When we walk humbly with our God, we show our community that there is a God who loves us and gave his son to us for a purpose – so that we would go out and do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.”
The theme of the prayer service was based on the call in Micah 6:8 to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. The Gospel, read by Pastor Nathan Young of Faith Bible Church in Covington, was the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25.
Faith impels us to service
Father Noel connected the Gospel reading to the meaning of the ecumenical gathering.
“In our Gospel reading tonight … we have the closest representation of the Christian brand,” Father Noel said. “What is absolutely essential to the Christian, for Matthew, is the service we give to our brothers and sisters in need, to the most vulnerable. … In fact, that is all that matters. For if our faith has any authenticity at all, it will certainly be made manifest in doing good for others.”
Father Noel mentioned the ecumenical efforts that are ongoing on the northshore, including the Samaritan Center and Covington Food Bank. “And yet, there is still much work to be done,” he said, mentioning the need to feed the hungry among many things.
“So let’s redouble our efforts” and work together, he said, “and show how close we are, really are, as followers of Jesus.”