Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Michael Girlinghouse, crucifer Nancy Holst, and Episcopal Bishop Larry Benfield are surrounded by clergy from Lutheran, Episcopal and Catholic churches on Reformation Sunday.
On Sunday, October 29, 2017, Lutheran, Episcopal and Catholic parishes in the Hot Springs, Arkansas area commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in an ecumenical worship service at the Coronado Center, Hot Springs Village. Bishop Larry Benfield, Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas, and Bishop Michael Girlinghouse, Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, co-celebrated the Eucharist for nearly 300 attendees and clergy. The Rev. Bill Elser, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, Hot Springs Village, led a responsive Litany for the People of God. A 50-person choir comprised of singers from each participating church and the Village Chorale sang traditional hymns and an anthem fittingly titled “Christ, the Lord, Our Sure Foundation”. Ellen Nagode was musical director for the occasion, accompanied by Lynn Payette on the piano and Dick Jorgensen on the trumpet.
An “earthquake event of the church” is how Bishop Benfield described the Reformation. “God is calling me to see Christ in all people. My hope is that in the next 500 years, people live fully into St. Paul’s teaching and vision, re-formed into the visible body of Christ.”
Bishop Girlinghouse noted that many were gathering worldwide to observe the Reformation, which was a time of great change, social violence, and spiritual renewal. Reflecting on chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he invited attendees to “join God in His work of reconciliation in the world now. It is a time for us to rise up and re-commit ourselves to live our lives in faith and grace-centered love. Today, we celebrate the gift of life.”
In the closing prayer, attendees thanked God “that you have refreshed us through the healing power of this gift of life. In your mercy, strengthen us through this gift, in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another”. A reception immediately followed this special event, made possible by the hard work and contributions of many members of the participating churches.