They’ve shared a history, a building and a neighborhood, and for the past several years, two congregations have shared ministers for one Sunday morning.
River Glen Presbyterian Church and St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, both of Naperville, will observe their fourth annual pulpit exchange Sunday.
The Rev. Dr. David Boumgarden, senior pastor of River Glen, will preach at St. Thomas, and the Rev. Don McLaughlin, pastor of St. Thomas, will preach at River Glen. The objective of the exchange, according to McLaughlin, is “to foster unity among Christians, and to specifically build on what we have in common through our baptism.”
St. Thomas and River Glen both began in 1984, using Thayer Hill Middle School for worship. The churches eventually moved into separate buildings — both of which are in the same neighborhood. Through the years, Boumgarden said, the two congregations have collaborated in “grass-root efforts” to help people from the area.
“A lot of the members of both churches are neighbors with one another,” he said.
The pulpit exchange is a way for the two churches to show their “ecumenical unity” despite their differing heritages, Boumgarden said.
“A lot of times people see different churches and different denominations,” Boumgarden said. “It’s not uncommon for people to see more division than unity. This is a way to bridge those visible divides. It’s a symbolic action.”
This year’s pulpit exchange service was specifically scheduled to take place on Pentecost, “which celebrates the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and how that spirit motivates the Christian community,” McLaughlin said.
“Pentecost is when God’s spirit was given to all Christians, not just to some,” Boumgarden said. “So this is a good day for us to celebrate this way.”
Boumgarden will preach at the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas, and McLaughlin will then preach at the 10 a.m. service at River Glen.
“If it’s like it’s been in past years, I’ll read scripture and preach, and then he’ll do the same,” Boumgarden said. “Their leaders and our leaders will lead the rest of the worship.”
The preachers look forward to the challenge of speaking to each other’s congregations each year.
“This is kind of fun to do, as a preacher to think about how to address fellow Christians coming from a different background, to find words or messages that will inspire them as much as when I preach to my own people,” Boumgarden said.Tags: faith, River Glen Presbyterian Church, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church