Saturday, October 10, 2009

A week of anniversaries

This first full week of October in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine is a week of anniversaries, or birthdays if you will in some cases. The commemorations commenced on Sunday the Fourth, which being the first Sunday of October was World Communion Sunday. It was a year ago on WCS that yours truly chose to join Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Since the Lord's Supper is such a highly meaningful element of the Christian life and worship to me, it made sense to put my membership into Eastwood that Sunday.

But this is a very minor anniversary, even for the day. You see, dear reader, two hundred years ago a former Presbyterian preacher on the American frontier, Thomas Campbell, published the "Declaration and Address (of the Christian Association of Washington, PA)", a document that was a strong call to Christian unity and the end to denominationalism and divisions separating the earthly Body of Christ. The "Declaration and Address" stands as one of the initial and pivotal documents for the Restoration Movement that spread along the frontier during the 1800s. This movement, to return the body of Christian believers back to its original New Testament simplicity and unity, developed into the current Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ (non-instrumental) and Christian Churches (independent). More about Campbell and the document can be found at

In 1909, the Centennial of the "Declaration and Address" coincided with a general assembly of Restorationists in Pittsburgh, and was remembered by means of "The Great Communion", a mass worship service around the Lord's Table. Last year, just as I was moving into Nashville from San Antonio, the World Convention (of Restoration denominations) was being held right here in Nashville, and I attended the closing worship on my first Sunday afternoon here. It was mentioned that A.D. 2009 would be the Bicentennial of the "Declaration and Address" and that rather than attempting to gather a significant number of members of the three denominations in one location in a second such "Great Communion", there would be various gatherings on World Communion Sunday.

And so this afternoon of WCS brothers and sisters from the Disciples, the Churches of Christ and the Independents were invited to gather at West End Church of Christ, a very large church about a mile out past Vanderbilt University on West End Avenue. I found out thru my Pastor that there would be a joint choir (or mass choir) as part of the worship, so I went early in the afternoon to lend my voice to this. I was delighted when I entered the building, to discover that T.J. McLaughlin, choir director at Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples) just a little further out the avenue, would be our director. It must have been a unique experience for him to be conducting rehearsal with no other instrument than a pitch pipe. But apparently that was a concession that had been made, that since we were in a Church of Christ building we'd be singing a cappella.

However, after a couple of addresses about this day and this significant worship gathering -- all the speakers made some mention of the document whose bicentennial we were also celebrating -- the special anthem by the joint choir and the partaking of the open Lord's Supper by all present, a local Disciples congregation of French-speaking members of African descent, did two concluding songs, in French. The first was strict a cappella, but the for the second they employed a pair of conga drums! I had to wonder if THIS were not the very first time any musical instrument of any type had been played in this sanctuary!

But praise be to God, for even with drums the song was heart-felt praise. And I certainly do hope the non-instrumental brethren present were accepting of it!

And praise be to God for our Supper of unity, remembering a milepost-timepost for a historical document calling for unity.

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