Members of St. Boniface Catholic Church and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church gathered together on Holy Saturday evening to share the blessing of the fire and the lighting of their respective Easter candles.
This beginning of the Easter Vigil, called the Service of Light, begins outside, where a fire has been prepared. The fire is blessed and is used to light a new Easter candle, which symbolizes Christ the light of the world. The candle is used throughout the Easter season and then throughout the year on special occasions, such as baptisms and funerals.
After the shared Service of Light, the two congregations returned to their own churches for the rest of the Easter Vigil. This year at St. Boniface, 43 people received the sacraments of initiation and were welcomed into the Catholic Church.
Father Jeffrey Goeckner, pastor of St. Boniface, said the idea to share the Service of Light came to him when he noticed that the Easter Vigil at St. Andrew’s would begin at the same time that St. Boniface would begin.
In the “high” Episcopalian tradition, many liturgies closely resemble their Catholic counterparts, including the Easter Vigil.
“Our churches already enjoy a lively exchange,” Father Goeckner said. The two congregations have shared Advent prayer services and support each other’s events such as pancake breakfasts and St. Boniface’s annual “Bonifest.”
“I just thought this would be natural thing to do,” he said. “I contacted their pastor, Mother Virginia Bennett, and she was very open to the idea.”
Father Goeckner consulted with Eliot Kapitan in the diocesan Office for Worship, who said it was a great ecumenical opportunity. He assisted Father Goeckner in obtaining permission from the diocesan administrator, Msgr. Carl Kemme.
“It’s an exciting ecumenical effort,” Kapitan said. “I’m pleased that these two Christian neighbors have found a way to share the beginning of their Easter Vigils.”
Father Goeckner said sharing this solemn moment proves that “we have more that unites us than divides us.”
“People from both churches were just thrilled with what we’re doing,” he said.