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by David G. Duggan
Special to Virtueonline
June 18, 2023

For much of the last three years, I have been stepping out of my Anglican comfort zone to worship at a Lutheran church around the corner from my home. Covid started this odyssey as the Episcopal parish where I had worshiped decided not to respect the 1st Amendment or federal court decisions and cravenly kept closed in servile submission to the edicts of corrupt state and local governments.

Years and years ago, the national leaders of the Episcopal and Lutheran churches entered into some sort of "concordat," respecting each other's ordinations, and even participating in the consecration of each other's bishops. I see little evidence of this rapprochement at pew's-eye level. Liturgical conventions that I have grown used to, even memorized are nowhere to be found. The prayer of consecration of the bread and wine seems to change each week and I miss such things as the prayer of humble access: "We do not presume to come to this thy table..." Oh well.

The minister pastoring this Lutheran congregation is actually the retired bishop of New York. You will search the street maps of New York in vain for a Lutheran cathedral, which may be just as well since it is one less building to have to put into mothballs waiting for a buyer to convert it into condos or a recreation center or some other use that profanes Christ's sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. I guess the Lutheran idea is that bishops actually get out among the flock rather than sit in ornate chairs. Cathedral is actually derived from Greek and Latin words for seat or bench.

So far as I can tell, this Lutheran parish has actually fared pretty well during Covid though like virtually any church these days it hosts an aging congregation and faces mission uncertainty. After four years of "interim" service, this retired bishop is going to serve another congregation, continuing 50 years of ordained ministry. That's a devotion to the Christ who is the Living Word I can scarcely imagine.

One of the central tenets of the Lutheran faith, one that Episcopalians might well consider, is "sola gratia," only by grace are we saved. No ideology, no ritual, no works. Only grace. I may not be there yet, but perhaps by the grace of God I will see the Risen Christ, and not as a stranger but as the One who saved me.

David Duggan is a retied attorney living in Chicago. He is a frequent contributor to Virtueonline

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