‘Lutherpalian’ congregations live into common mission
By Pat McCaughan
Kristy Chambers said she and other church members proudly wore “We are Lutherpalians” T-shirts to the Sept. 23 Episcopal Night at Dodger Stadium, “and it was great fun,” she said recently.
Chambers, 53, has attended the blended Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran and St. Paul’s Episcopal church in Barstow for four years, and happily identifies both as Lutherpalian and with her cradle Episcopalian roots.
“There are some differences, sure, but I didn’t realize how similar the two really were until I saw them, side by side. It [blending congregations] can be done without a loss of identity.”
In addition to Barstow, there are at least three such Lutheran-Episcopal affiliations in various stages of formation in the Diocese of Los Angeles; in Big Bear Lake, Santa Paula and Seal Beach. Clergy and laity alike say the joys and blessings of engaging common mission far outweigh subtle differences in worship, polity, language and structure, and that agreements depend upon the local context.
“We are two churches, one family,” said the Rev. Mary Tororeiy who, as St. Paul’s vicar and Shepherd of the Desert’s pastor for four years, attends both Lutheran Synod gatherings and the Episcopal diocese’s annual convention, to be held this year Nov. 11 – 12 in Riverside.
The congregations share outreach ministry and space but maintain separate finances except for “One Campus,” a joint fund that covers utilities, maintenance, and other overhead expenses, she said.
The two churches began joint worship about 15 years ago, not long after the 2000 ratification of Called to Common Mission, a full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Nationally, the ELCA approved the denominational agreement in 1999. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church followed suit in 2000, after nearly 30 years of dialogue. The agreement allows each to retain autonomy and historic structures while exercising mission and witness together, as well as sharing clergy.