Unity in the Body of Christ is imporant to Jesus. We see this in His prayer in John 17. Because it is important to Jesus, it is part of our work as disciples to pray and work for Christian unity. It is true for Christians everywhere. For the Alleluia Community, it is a special call, challenge, and pleasure. Because it is so important, the devil attacks us in every way he can. Because it is so important, we must resist the devil’s tactics and “be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.” We stand as a community in testimony to the work of unity that the Holy Spirit is doing among Christians across traditions, over the entire world. Together we strive to live a practical day-to-day unity of love and fellowship. Together we pray for the officals in our denominations to find a way to resolve the differences between us. Together we each strive for holiness and truth. Together we work to maintain loving relationships in spite of our differences, being “quick to forgive and ask forgiveness.” Together we pray with Jesus, “Father make them (us) one.” Together we say with Jesus, “For man it is impossible; but for God all things are possible!” (Matt.19:26)
Those of us living in an ecumenical environment face a dilemma the must be resolved if we are to thread the needle of remaining faithful to our denominational traditions…”in the manner which guards and protects the work of the unity that God is doing in the Alleluia Community.” We must find ways to practice, foster, and pass on to our children our particular denomination’s heritage and way of life, while maintaining the prophetic witness of our multi-denomination unity. Some of this process takes place in families, some in the churches to which Alleluia families belong.
We have found that there is a need to find a way to move these elements forward within the community experience as well. To do this, we have developed “Fellowships,” groupings in the Community that help foster elements of the Christian life that are specific to the members of a subgrouping (i.e., Catholic or Protestant), or denomination. In Alleluia we have formed two such Fellowships, the Catholic Fellowship and the Protestant Fellowship.
The Catholic Fellowship
The Alleluia Catholic Fellowship was established in 1991. Bishop Raymonds Lessard, then the Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, encouraged and helped the Fellowship obtain canonical recognition. This means that the Catholic Church officially recognizes this Fellowship as a genuine work of God and accepts the Catholic Fellowship as a formal and legal entity within the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Fellowship provides four functions for Roman Catholics in the Alleluia Community:
- It gives its members the opportunity of further strengthening their Catholic identity — especially through teaching and days of renewal.
- It is a means to pass on Catholic identity to the next generation.
- Because its members are charismatic, they bring the operative gifts of the Holy Spirit to the diocesan church.
- The Fellowship, because it is an official entity, can be a model to the Catholic Church. It is a living prophecy to the church to build an alternate society. It speaks directly to Catholics at large about Christian unity because it is couched within the existence of a functioning ecumenical community.
Since the founding of the Catholic Fellowship in 1992, seven men who are from the Community or are graduates of the Alleluia Community’s ecumenical school have been ordained priests. Another seven Alleluia School graduates are in formation to become priests at the time of this writing. Several deacons have also been ordained or are in formation, and three of our Alleluia School graduates are now fully professed women religious.
In 1994, the Alleluia Catholic Fellowship was admitted to the International Fraternity of Catholic Covenant Communities and Fellowships. This is a private association of the faithful through the Pontifical Council of the Laity in Rome. This has served to strengthen the Catholic identity of Alleluia Catholic members and to provide a way for Alleluia to promote ecumenism among member communities.
The Protestant Fellowship
Although the Protestant Fellowship Currently has no formal agreement and has limited structure, it is an important development in the life of the Alleluia Community. With the larger portion of the population of Alleluia being Roman Catholic, Alleluia Protestants need the encouragement that mutuality brings.
Included in the Alleluia Protestant Fellowhip are the following traditions:
- Messianic Judaism
- United Methodist
(Includes several ordained clergy.)
While it is not possible to have complete doctrinal unity, there is considerable spiritual unity in the group. This unity translates into a very positive environment for community members as well community guests.
Most of the Protestant Fellowship activities occur during community retreats and birthday celebrations. Other gatherings include times of fellowship, worship, and Lord’s Day meals. Praying for more Protestants to join Alleluia is an ongoing priority of the Alleluia Protestant Fellowships.
As with the Catholic Fellowship, the Protestant Fellowship is directly overseen by the Alleluia Community elders.