More than 50 people from at least eight Muncie churches gathered on a snowy afternoon in January to pray for Christian unity. They came from African American congregations, from Methodist and nondenominational churches, and from Muncie’s Roman Catholic parishes.
Deliverance Temple hosted the service, the first of its kind in Muncie since 2009. According to Deacon Jim Rush, an ecumenical officer for the local Catholic diocese, the service would not have happened this year without Jim Schenkel and the support of the Muncie branch of the People of Praise.
Mr. Rush began looking for someone to organize the service in early 2015. After the third person told him to talk with Jim Schenkel, Mr. Rush got in touch with him, and Jim ultimately agreed to spearhead the service. He sent flyers to every church in the city (roughly 130 churches), took out newspaper ads and ads in church bulletins. He even spoke before the city council about the event.
A turning point came when Jim met Rev. Andre Mitchell of Deliverance Temple at a pastors’ meeting, and Rev. Mitchell asked Jim why he had come.
“I believe that God sent me here,” Jim replied.
Rev. Mitchell took Jim seriously and ultimately agreed to host the service at Deliverance Temple.
“We shared a brotherly bond from the start,” Rev. Mitchell said.
Ten pastors and Christian leaders agreed to participate, and stood together at the front of the church.
Jim, as emcee, called on Bill Bolka (Muncie) to lead the group in “Amazing Grace” with his guitar. Men and women from different churches read Scripture passages. Then Peter Walters (Muncie) gave a talk on John 17. He said that Jesus’ heartfelt words on unity, spoken on the night before he died, showed how important the unity of Christians is to God. In keeping with that theme, the service ended with the song “Father, Make Us One.”
Those words resonated with Rev. Andre Mitchell and his father, Rev. Royce Mitchell, who founded Deliverance Temple. “John 17 was my father’s theme passage for 25 years,” Rev. Andre Mitchell explained.
Later, Rev. Andre Mitchell took Pete over to a mural painted on the wall. It showed a Bible open to the words of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 with the words, “Lord, Make Us One.”
“I've always had an interest in promoting Christian unity, but I’ve never been to a gathering like this,” Rev. Royce Mitchell said. “This was the largest number of Catholics we've had in the church at one time.”
Following the service, Muncie branch members served a simple lunch and many of the people stayed to eat and talk together.
The event surpassed Mr. Rush’s expectations. “It was a huge success. It gives us much to build on. It was wonderful to have an ecumenical group like the People of Praise support it.”
Walt Seale says:
February 4th, 2016 at 4:03 PM
thank you Jim and the Muncie branch. Great work.
Thomas Duddy says:
February 4th, 2016 at 4:22 PM
Cool! Thanks for sharing this wonderful news!
-Thomas Duddy (Lakeside/Allendale)
John Boughton says:
February 4th, 2016 at 4:27 PM
We are greatly encouraged by our Muncie branch in these ways they supported this work of God. May we all be so bold!
Terry Bomkamp says:
February 4th, 2016 at 4:30 PM
Great work brothers and sisters of the Muncie Branch! May the Lord continue to bless you and the work you are doing.
February 4th, 2016 at 4:33 PM
Praise God! Well done Muncie!
Pam Seale says:
February 4th, 2016 at 4:34 PM
I love that the Lord is building his people like this. Way to go Jim and all the brothers and sisters in the Muncie Branch who followed the Spirit's lead. Glory!
Mary Lou Carey says:
February 4th, 2016 at 5:30 PM
How exciting and encouraging! Thanks for sharing this; and Come, Holy Spirit!
paul putzier says:
February 4th, 2016 at 5:49 PM
Thanks for the encouraging story.
Maria Elliott - NoVA says:
February 4th, 2016 at 5:58 PM
I was greatly moved to hear this story. This is the first event I've heard about this kind of ecumenism. The witness of the Reverends Mitchell speaks volumes about how needed this type of outreach is. The elder man said he had never been to a gathering like that before! Glory to God!
Angie Hass says:
February 4th, 2016 at 6:00 PM
Glory! This is wonderful and brings me lots of joy! Praise God!
Marcie rosencrantz says:
February 4th, 2016 at 6:07 PM
That was beautiful and we need more of that!!!!!
Cynthia H says:
February 4th, 2016 at 6:21 PM
Praise God!! What a wonderful move of the Lord! Great to hear it!
Nancy Grams says:
February 4th, 2016 at 6:21 PM
Well done, Muncie Branch! What an encouragement to all of us, young and old, to say "yes" to the Lord and his people.
Chris Urbanski says:
February 4th, 2016 at 6:27 PM
Glory to God, He continues His work.. John 17:21 was also my husbands favorite scripture, happy to remember that!
Linda Simpkins says:
February 4th, 2016 at 8:05 PM
Members of Black Lives Matter have foregrounded the differences between the life experience of blacks and whites in the Twin Cities area. This local action, in addition to the national news coverage of numerous incidents over the past couple of years, has caused me to question how races can be brought together and changes be made on a cultural level. I wrote a column a year ago for the Sauk Centre Herald essentially proposing that churches adopt each other as sister churches the way Catholic churches in our diocese adopt sister churches in Africa. In the wake of all this, I am in awe to realize that the People of Praise has already taken steps to open our lives to blacks in poor neighborhoods, to make them a part of our family of faith. This event also is not only ecumenical, bringing together people of different doctrines, but of different economic and social backgrounds, as brothers and sisters in Christ. How moving and inspiring!
David Zimmel says:
February 4th, 2016 at 8:49 PM
Praise God! This is just awesome!
Jack Schenkel says:
February 4th, 2016 at 9:07 PM
Jim is that kind of a man/person. I am so proud to call him my twin. I know our parents smile...
February 4th, 2016 at 9:21 PM
Does Jim need any $$ for his expenses incurred from this endeavor ? ...just askin' !!
jane Buch says:
February 5th, 2016 at 11:42 AM
Hallelujah, God is good. Unity of Christians has been my heart's cry for 50 years!
Tom Duddy says:
February 5th, 2016 at 1:15 PM
Now that is something to celebrate! My heart aches for the silent walls between denominations and groups. We can accomplish so much more together. The Muncie branch really accomplished something important! More Lord!
Frank Bassett says:
February 5th, 2016 at 11:31 PM
Kudos to Jim, Bill & Peter, and the entire Muncie Branch! This is one of the best stories I've ever heard concerning ecumenism in action. Your efforts were certainly rewarded by the very positive outcome. I was especially touched by the sub-plot re John 17. Shows how just a few of our brethren can make a big difference in our "outward turn."
John Vogel says:
February 6th, 2016 at 2:06 PM
Makes me want to sing and shout for joy. Thank you to Jim, and the brothers and sisters in Muncie.
Leave a Response