A Fellowship Celebration: Peace, St. Mark’s and Trinity Congregations
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”- Psalm 133:1
On Sunday, August 25, a joint service of three congregations of our fellowship was held at Peace Ev. Lutheran Church in Oak Forest, Illinois. The service celebrated with praise to the God of all grace the fellowship that His Holy Spirit had wrought in the three flocks by bringing them mutually to recognize the blessed unity they enjoy together on the basis of His Word. Two of the churches, Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church of Oak Park, Illinois, and St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church of Sauk Village, Illinois, had been for some time carefully studying the confessional position of the Concordia Lutheran Conference and comparing it with the clear and certain statements of Holy Scripture (Acts 17:11) to determine objectively whether its doctrine and its practice were truly orthodox. This study was not done in haste, but the congregations exercised great care over many months to assure themselves of real and not imagined unity (Corinthians 1:10). Finally in April, 2002, both congregations unanimously declared their unreserved agreement with the constituent congregations of the Concordia Lutheran Conference and recognized the fellowship that God had created among them.
At the special service, Pastor Robert J. Lietz of Oak Park delivered the sermon on the basis of Psalm 133:1, stating as his theme the awesome joy expressed in the text by the Psalmist and shared by those in attendance: “Lo and Behold, Believing Brothers and Sisters Bound Together in the Unity of the Spirit!” In dividing the theme, Pastor Lietz pointed out that, before the Lord, “this is good, beautiful, and Godpleasing,” and for us, “this is pleasant, sweet, and brings much joy!” After the sermon and special prayers of thanksgiving, the communicant members of the three flocks partook of the Lord’s Supper together for the remission of their sins, for strength to remain steadfast in His Word and faith, in doctrine and life, unto the end, and as a clear testimony of their precious, God-wrought unity in that Word. Following the service, the three congregations enjoyed a festive meal and combined church picnic, at which many of the those in attendance, who had never before personally met one another, had the good and pleasant opportunity to celebrate their new and blessed relationship as dear brethren.
It is worthy of note that what was celebrated on the “fellowship Sunday” was not a “union” or amalgamation of congregations and church-bodies into a convenient outward federation, but was (and is) a blessed spiritual relationship crossing both congregational and synodical lines. Peace, for example, is a member-congregation of our Concordia Lutheran Conference, while both Trinity and St. Mark’s (together with Faith in Stover, Missouri) are the constituent congregations of the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations, a corporate church-body which dates back to 1979 and still continues to exist and function as an autonomous organization and legal corporation. By God’s grace, however, the two church bodies now enjoy and are eager “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), mindful of St. Paul’s injunction “that [we] all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among [us], but that [we] be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10) on the basis of God’s verbally-inspired, inerrant, clear, and all-sufficient Word. “Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
D. T. M.