Going into seminary, I thought that "ecumenical" was a bad word. My experiences with ecumenical events seemed to be watered-down God talk that never really amounted to anything significant. The spiritual had been sucked out in order to make room for political correctness, and what was left was a less-desirable version of the truth as I understood it.
So you can imagine my surprise, after living in Walla Walla for a year, that I would be in the center of creating an ecumenical gathering of church and parachurch youth workers who get together once a month for fellowship, prayer and the occasional event.
This group does not just include people from mainline Protestant denominations, but also Catholics, Bible churches, Pentecostals, Young Life, InterVarsity, charismatics, Seventh-day Adventists and Baptists.
When we get together, we do not try to right one another’s theology. Instead, we focus on what we have in common: We love Jesus. We want kids to have a relationship with Jesus.
We choose to work together on common projects in community in order to build the church in this valley. Our own version of church does not need to be left at the door, but instead we listen and learn from one another and over the past two years, many of us have grown significant relationships with one another.
The church has a lot of challenges in the 21st century, and one of the most significant is that there is a perception that people in the church spend their time looking down on others and fighting amongst themselves. On the second Thursday of every month, at 11:30 a.m. in different church fellowship halls around the community, we are working to change this perception. To date, the Walla Walla Youth Network is responsible for the largest ecumenical event in Walla Walla, Walla Walla High School’s Baccalaureate. We are working to create other opportunities for the church to gather and worship together. We spend time with school administrators learning more about how we can be of help on campuses. We have met with local officials and groups who are concerned with youth in the downtown area and in this valley and are working with them to meet the needs of these students. Each church makes its own decisions about what to participate in, but what we have seen is more engagement within our community and with youth who are in need of the love that comes from Christ.
Is ecumenical a bad word? I would say it does not have to be.
In my recent experience, I have learned that having a Kingdom mentality has done more to grow and strengthen the church in this valley and I have gained a richer understanding of who Christ is because of my brothers and sisters in our local churches.
The Rev. Nate Dreesmann is associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Walla Walla. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.