The Church for Orlando

The Church is the body of Christ in the world. The Church is called by God to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world, and to do so in word and deed. This proclamation is always urgently needed and never more so than in the instance of human brutality and suffering.

We offer to you Gospel voices–voices for light in darkness–speaking for the Church in Boston to our suffering neighbors in Orlando, to the LGBTQ community, to the victims of gun violence, to the Muslim community and to the poor in spirit everywhere.

What follows are a series of links to statements by leading voices in Boston’s Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical/Pentecostal and Mainline Protestant communities as well as a special link to practical action the Church (your church!) can take on behalf of the Orlando victims and the LGBTQ community.


A Christian Response Along the Refugee Highway

At our November 2015 WEE Forum, Dr. Gregg Detwiler & Rev. Torli Krua  presented on, ‘A Christian Response Along the Refugee Highway.’ It was a remarkable presentation. Gregg and Torli provided great insight and a holistic perspective regarding the nature & scope of the present refugee crisis, and, vitally, how we can more effectively engage the crisis. Please see below for a 3 minute video summary of the forum.

Holy Week Greetings from an Orthodox Brother

Aaron Friar is an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a friend of the Institute. He recently shared an excerpt from his excellent blog, ‘Like Mendicant Monks,’ that he penned a few years ago but has new timeliness this year (for reasons you will soon see) as the Christian Church prepares to enter once more into the sobriety and joy of the Passion of our Lord.

May Aaron’s words encourage you and bring to your mind and heart a sense of the beauty and wonder of this season! Enjoy…

beato20“Hasten to the Tomb! I had been planning it all week, but like all difficult things, when the time came to actually carry it out, I was lingering in the throes of early morning drowsiness. I have been trying for years to attend the Western Easter Vigil Service that I format every year for the parish where I am employed as an administrator. But for the last several years, the Eastern and the Western calendars have been in sync, and I would never miss a drop of Orthodox Holy Week, especially as I usually lead the service on the morning of Great and Holy Saturday.

But this year I had my opportunity, and I determined to seize it. I saw early on in the week that the monks at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist just across the river from me start their Easter Vigil at the ripe hour of 4:30am Sunday morning. Surely I could return from our parish’s Lenten Men’s Retreat in the Western half of the state soon enough to catch a few winks and rise at deep dawn to hasten to the tomb. But that was before I carefully reckoned the fatigue of driving two hours back and forth and the stamina of a 40-something year old. This morning, when the hour arrived to depart, I was listening more to Pastor Pillow than to my earlier enthusiasm. [Read more…]

Reflections on the Year Past & the Year Ahead at the Institute

“The world needs to know Jesus. We must proclaim Him without any pause, together. The division among Christians is the fruit of our sin, and it is a scandal and our greatest impediment for the mission for which the Lord has called us: announcing the Good News of the Gospel.”

So said Pope Francis in a letter he sent to a gathering of Evangelicals & Catholics this past September – at which I had the privilege of representing the Institute for Christian Unity. For me, Francis’ words capture the essence of our work and the passion which drives me to keep going at this in the face of many challenges. It resonates deeply with our vision: “To raise up a new generation of ‘prophetic ecumenists’ who seek to both confront and heal disunity in the Body of Christ and live as a sign of love for that Body, so that the world would know the good news of Jesus” And I hope it stirs something in you as well.

Over the past year, that vision and passion has motivated me to teach about reconciliation across historic church divides in a number of settings and to create networks between Catholics and Evangelicals through smaller gatherings like the one mentioned above. I also spent a week in April out of my comfort zone at the National Workshop for Christian Unity, helping my good friend and mentor John Armstrong establish the first-ever participation of Evangelicals at that conference.

That vision and passion has motivated my co-Director Vito Nicastro to spend months of hard work behind the scenes to bring about a remarkable joint letter from Cardinal O’Malley and Bishop Hazelwood of the ELCA that even got a shoutout in the Boston Globe. It has motivated our Fellow Matt Crane to create a unique community grass-roots ecumenical forum in the Boston area. Over the past calendar year they have thoughtfully engaged a number of powerful topics including racism, human sexuality, the role of women in the church and the current refugee crisis – all in a space of mutual respect and love. And all of us have been involved in mentoring several young undergraduates and seminarians, all of whom are discovering their own call to prophetic ecumenism.

Though each of us has another full-time ministry, our goal for next year is to continue to expand the impact of the Institute. Some of the ways we’d like to do that include:
• Working with Vision New England to develop more missional partnerships between Evangelicals and Catholics.
• Hosting a multi-day Christian unity gathering in the greater Boston area in the fall of 2016.
• Following up the joint letter by creating structures for Lutherans, Catholics and other Christians to come together for study, prayer and service
• Expanding the WEE Forum to more communities

Warmly in Christ,

Scott Brill
Founding Fellow and Co-Director

The Power of Art in the Cause of Hope

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Charlie Peacock that appeared in CCM Magazine in November 2003.  Peacock’s subject is the extraordinary contribution to life and hope made by one Vedran Smailovic during the course of the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Smailovic’s wondrous deeds have no less meaning for us today, two decades on. Further, they speak unequivocally to the power of the arts in buoying the human spirit. Read and be moved!

“At 4 p.m. on May 27, 1992, in the war-torn city of Sarajevo, people hungry for bread lined up outside a bakery. Without warning, a bomb fell and split the line into pieces, killing 22 people. Not far from the scene lived a musician named Vedran Smailovic. Before the weight of war crushed Sarajevo’s music, Vedran had been the principal cellist with the opera. At his wit’s end and sickened by the slaughter, Vedran made a choice that day. He decided to “breathe life” into the rubble of war. According to author Paul Sullivan, “Every day thereafter, at 4 p.m. precisely, Vedran put on his full, formal concert attire, picked up his cello and walked out of his apartment into the midst of the battle raging around him. He placed a little camp stool in the middle of the crater that the shell had made, and he played a concert. He played to the abandoned streets, to the smashed trucks and burning buildings and to the terrified people who hid in the cellars while the bombs dropped and the bullets flew. Day after day, he made his unimaginably courageous stand for human dignity, for all those lost to war, for civilization, for compassion and for peace.” This is a picture of what the new Kingdom way of Jesus might look like in the wild world we live in. Through this one daily act, Vedran illustrated the calling to do good to all people and Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” I have no idea whether Vedran professes to follow Jesus or not. Still, there’s something to be learned through his storied living. He preached through the gut, wood and horse hair of his cello, musically communicating: “People of Sarajevo! People of Bosnia! We are made for so much more than this! Listen, we are made for beauty! Listen, we are made for truth! Listen, we are made for peace! Listen, be renewed, inspired and cared for.” In the way he knew best, using the resources and talent before him, Vedran exercised “dominion” over the crater in his neighborhood and pushed back the effects of the fall. This was no neutral choice. It affected everyone around him, and its influence spread throughout the world. In fact, two years later, on the stage of the Royal Conservatory concert hall in Manchester, England, world famous cellist Yo Yo Ma performed David Wilde’s composition, “The Cellist of Sarajevo.” Vedran was there to hear it. This kind of story should be the norm for followers of Jesus. I should rise each day and ask God, “What rubble do you want me to breathe your life into today? Where do you want the Kingdom rule to be made visible? How can I help to make something or someone beautiful?” This kind of lifestyle is world-changing, and you never know how far or how long a story will travel on its trajectory of good. The Jesus story of good is still traveling the world today, isn’t it?”