Pulpit swap! Innovative ecumenism in Barboursville

By Kerry Bart

By Rev. Kerry Bart
Western District Communications Chair

One side of the church marquee exclaimed “RED ROVER, RED ROVER, SEND YOUR PASTOR OVER,” while the other side said, “CHURCH HOKEY POKEY: BVILLE PULPIT EXCHANGE, AUG 19. COME AND SEE!”

It was the Second Annual Pulpit Exchange, and it was well received by pretty much everybody. This year it included five churches in a two-mile radius swapping pastors one Sunday morning: three United Methodists, a Presbyterian, and a Lutheran (last year the mix included two American Baptist churches as well).

Our local ministerium pastors meet once a month for fellowship plus some community event planning, and the pulpit swap is one of the latest things we’ve done.

I enjoyed the opportunity to experience a peer’s worship context and to craft a message slightly differently than I craft for my appointed church – a little more broadly introductive of myself, a basic Gospel message, and a challenge to a semi-known congregation to live lives of faith in action and in community.

“I think it’s a good thing to go out as ‘missionaries,’ as representatives of our congregations, on an annual basis,” reflected pulpit swap participant Rev. Angela Gay Kinkead of Pea Ridge UMC. “We are challenged — our congregations hear different styles and perspectives — but more so, in a highly visible way, we demonstrate ecumenism and collegiality in this little corner of the world. It changes the way we pastors interact with each other. We don’t have our own little kingdoms, but are reminded that we serve the whole body of Christ as ministers of the Gospel.”

In a world where there is much division among denominations and communities and even within churches, why not share the Word in this way in your community as we seek to be a Christ-led, spiritual breath of fresh air that changes the world?