By Jenny McCulloch
When St. Francis Episcopal Church in Charleston needed worship and meeting space, they turned to Holy Spirit Evangelical Lutheran Church and began a tradition. However, the story doesn’t begin or end there.
Holy Spirit has a long history of working with other churches. During the Civil War, Zion Lutheran Church merged with a Methodist church because neither could afford a pastor. They later became St Andrews Lutheran – one of our parent congregations. The other parent congregation, Holy Comforter Lutheran sold their property and worshipped for a time at Stuhr’s Funeral Home, so those members understood the plight of St. Francis Episcopal Church as they searched for a place to worship and grow their congregation.
Since St. Francis was formed in March of 2013, these congregations have enjoyed the opportunity to share blessings with each other. St. Francis planned a joint picnic on Pentecost and invited Holy Spirit to an Advent wreath-making workshop, we have shared Lenten meals and services with each other, and Holy Spirit borrowed a beautiful chalice for our sanctuary dedication service. We have contributed to the service projects and outreaches of one another’s churches as well. St. Francis and Holy Spirit provide two weekly opportunities for Bible Study for both congregations and St. Francis has a home for meetings.
Recently both churches lost their pastors. Fortunately, Pr. Mark Scott arrived as the Interim Pastor on the same day as Fr. Michael Shaffer began at St. Francis with two weeks to spare before Easter. Working quickly to prepare for Holy Week services, Fr. Shaffer and Pastor Scott planned combined services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday at Holy Spirit that included portions of the Book of Common Prayer and the ELW.
With the assistance, of the Rev. Greg Smith, the deacon at St. Francis, Holy Week worship included members of both congregations in worship leadership. What unfolded was a great and memorable time that brought into focus the strong ecumenical relationship shared by Lutherans and Episcopalians nationally.
This has been a truly meaningful relationship for both congregations- each following where God leads us singularly and together. We look forward to seeing how God uses us both.