A House Undivided

Pastor Starts Election Day Communion To Cross Aisle

Posted: November 10, 2012

An effort begun by a pastor in November 2008 has grown to include more than 900 congregations nationwide, including more than a dozen in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. On Tuesday night, worshippers across the U.S. participated in Election Day Communion services in an effort to encourage unity during the campaign season. (Photo by Candace Sipos / DN-R)
An idea started by one Waynesboro pastor took root in the Valley and quickly spread throughout the nation — backed by only $20.

In November 2008, Mark Schloneger, then pastor of Springdale Mennonite Church, believed the congregation should have some sort of celebration of unity during the divisive election season.

“There’s no better way to do that as a Christian than to gather around the Lord’s table,” Schloneger said.

So, the small church took part in its first Election Day communion service on the evening that President Barack Obama was first chosen for the highest federal office.

Four years later, Schloneger decided to broaden the scope of the concept.

After accepting a job pastoring North Goshen Mennonite Church, he moved to Goshen, Ind., in August, about a month before starting the new position.

With $20, he purchased the rights to a website to advertise Election Day Communion — visit www. http://electiondaycommunion.org/ — and began inviting churches to participate.

Kevin Gasser, pastor of Staunton Mennonite Church, and Ben Irwin, member of an Episcopal church in Grand Rapids, Mich., quickly helped to further the effort on the national scale.

Present

On Tuesday evening, more than 900 congregations nationwide participated in the event, including more than a dozen in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

Park View Mennonite Church in the city hosted an ecumenical communion service attended by pastors and members of Asbury United Methodist Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church and Muhlenberg Lutheran Church.

“The basic idea behind it is that this is a day that’s most divisive in our country,” said Park View Pastor Phil Kniss.

“It’s a time to proclaim and remind ourselves where we place our hope. It’s not that we don’t get involved in the political process, but ultimately our hope is not in government entities. It’s in the kingdom of God, which is larger than any national interest, national boundaries or political party lines.”

The short service featured traditional hymns and Gospel readings, a prayer spoken by three of the four church leaders involved and a less formal message delivered by all four church leaders.

“We now and then have to be reminded that whatever our love of country may be and whatever our allegiances and oaths may be, none supercedes our allegiance to Jesus Christ,” said Daniel Robayo, pastor of Emmanuel Episcopal.

Kniss reminded the room, full of roughly 100 guests, that the event was not a substitute for voting, but rather a “centering practice for all Christians.”

“It helps us remember who we are and whose we are,” he said.

Lawrence Yoder, a Harrisonburg resident who attends Park View Mennonite and taught Schloneger at Eastern Mennonite Seminary years ago, was thinking one thing throughout the whole service: “I can’t imagine why we haven’t done this sort of thing before,” he said.

“We people of faith are brothers and sisters, and we ought to discover how to love one another in spite of our differences,” he added.

 Another Park View member, Jean Ndayizigiye, had similar views.

“We are all part of one body,” he said. “Being united I think is very important for the church.”

Future

Schloneger says he knows the event will continue, regardless of whether an organized national effort lives on. He’s contacting the church leaders who participated to get feedback regarding how often they wish to hold similar services.

“I see God’s hand in this, not only in the incredible final totals, but just in how this all kind of took off,” he said. “It was a beautiful thing.”


Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com


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