Monday, March 26, 2018

Joint student pilgrimage helps cement ties between Roman Catholic Church and Church of God in Toledo

Though the relationship of the churches in this article seems to be that of equals, the road will inevitably lead to Rome. As reported by Nicki Gorny of the Toledo Blade, March 22, 2018:

Chattering schoolchildren trekked down Collingwood Boulevard on Thursday, waving palms in a first-of-its-kind pilgrimage between two of the most influential churches in the neighborhood.

Approximately 170 students from the K-8 Rosary Cathedral Catholic School began their route at Rosary Cathedral, adjacent to their school, where Catholic Bishop Daniel Thomas welcomed them with brief remarks at 10 a.m. Then they headed a few blocks down the boulevard for a brief and spirited service with Bishop Robert Culp at First Church of God.

Eighth-graders Tatiana Davis and Trinity Alexander were among the young pilgrims. They said en route to First Church that they were enjoying the pilgrimage, which organizers said is the latest collaboration between the increasingly close Catholic school and Protestant church.

“I think it’s cool we get to do new things with the church,” Tatiana said.

Rosary Cathedral Catholic School and First Church of God have grown particularly close this school year, said Sister Lynda Snyder, principal at the school, and Avery Cooper, youth pastor at the church. Church members read with the students in their library after school, for example, and in the fall organized a harvest-themed party in the cafeteria.

Representatives said both communities value the relationship.

“We’re in the same neighborhood and our churches are on the same street,” Bishop Thomas said. “Rosary Cathedral has this school for the children of the neighborhood, and First Church of God is very committed to assisting us in making an education which is based in Christ Jesus and based in virtue.”

This week’s pilgrimage came as a celebration both of this ecumenical relationship, between church and school, and of the Easter season, Bishop Culp said. Palm Sunday, signifying the beginning of Holy Week for Christians, is this weekend.

“This is such an important season in the life of the church,” Bishop Culp said. “We have common ground with our brothers and sisters here.”

Students seemed engaged during the brief service at First Church of God, which invited them to clap in time to praise songs and watch some of their classmates perform a step-dance routine. An alumnus of the school, Raymond Sanders, who is now in his junior year at Central Catholic High School, also shared a brief reflection.

Then the students were invited to lunch at the church.

Sister Lynda estimated that just 10 percent of the students at Rosary Cathedral Catholic School identify as Catholic. Pastor Cooper said that the families of some students attend First Church, which for many years, beginning in 1974, operated its own school.

Bishop Culp and others said they hope to repeat the pilgrimage with the students next year.

“It’s the first of what I hope will be a tradition for us in this season of the year,” Bishop Culp said.

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