Virginia’s Christian leaders gather in prayer

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Christian leaders from across Virginia gathered in Sterling last weekend for the 2015 LARCUM Conference. "The Church Always Reforming" was this years theme.

The annual event is a statewide gathering of both clergy and laity from the Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist faith traditions.

Father Donald J. Rooney, chairman of the diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Commission, welcomed participants Dec. 4 at Christ the Redeemer Church in Sterling.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde presided at a prayer service that same evening, during which he and Bishop Young Jin Cho of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church were recognized for their support of the annual gathering as they near retirement.

The Rev. Dr. Gerald Christianson, professor emeritus of church history at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania, was this year's keynote speaker.

Christianson gave a series of talks, which began Friday afternoon at Community Lutheran Church. His second talk, "Early Medieval Renewal Movements," took place Friday night at Christ the Redeemer Church.

His talk on "Late Medieval Ferment" was held at St. Matthew Episcopal Church, while his final talk "Spirituality in the Early Reformation" returned to Community Lutheran Church.

Bishop Richard Graham of the Metro Washington Evangelical Lutheran Church, presided.

During his Friday evening talk, Christianson presented his thesis that monks were the successors of the early church martyrs.

The first monk, St. Anthony, retreated into the Egyptian desert alone in the 4th century. St. Benedict arrived in the 6th century and wrote the "Benedictine rule," a series of instructions on how to live the monastic life in community.

"Monks became a brotherhood of prayer," he said, as they withdrew from the world and replaced physical death with self-sacrifice.

Christianson said the monastic system was constantly reforming itself, from the Benedictine Abby at Cluny through St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the primary reformer of the Cistercian order.

"There always must be reform," he said. "Reform is built into any church structure."

In brief reflections during the evening prayer service Dec. 4, Bishop Young Jin Cho of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, said that all of us have received God's saving grace, even though we are not worthy.

"We are a chosen people," he said. "We are sons and daughters of God."

Bishop Cho said that thanks to Jesus Christ, we have a new identity, a new mission, to become the salt and light of the world.

"Our mission will give hope to the world," he said.

Bishop Christianson said it is obvious that today's world is not at peace and that the political landscape does not give us much hope. "Some people say this country is no longer Christian, but mission territory," he said.

"We are in desperate need of renewal and reform," the bishop said. "We still have hope in this broken world."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015