By NANCY SCHWERIN
COLUMBIA — It was an hour in time where everything appeared to be right in the world. People laughed at Father J-Glenn Murray’s portrayal of humanity’s faults and nodded their heads at what should be.
The keynote speaker for the Jubilee 2000 All Ministries Conference got right to the point. The theme of the event “Being a Reconciling People: Celebrating Differences, Welcoming Diversity” was touched on most matter-of-factly by the charismatic priest at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Columbia.
He asked, “Can we differ without disliking? Can we debate without hate?”
Can we put aside our differences to be the family of God?
Father Murray, with an impromptu fashion show, sing-alongs, folkloric lessons in faith and a charming disposition, lightened the hearts of the nearly 500 participants.
The Jesuit priest said, “There are divisions and quarreling even among us here today. This cannot be! We must be united in the same mind and same purpose.”
All people must work together within the church. “We can learn so much from children and teen-agers — trust me on this,” he said. “They remind us of justice … (when they say) ‘It ain’t fair.'”
We need old people, he said, and told a touching tale of a young man with a beautiful voice who sang for his church ‘the Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want ….’ The congregation clapped exuberantly for his breathtaking rendition. Later, an old woman also sang the psalm, but in a feeble, strained voice. The audience wept after her reading. Why are the two so different? The young man knew the psalm; the old woman knew the shepherd.
Father Murray is director of the Office of Pastoral Liturgy and a teacher of homiletics for the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. He has been speaking for more than 15 years on African-American preaching and multicultural spirituality.
The second diocesan All Ministries Conference was sponsored by the Institute of Parish Leadership Development, which is directed by Oratorian Father Joseph Wahl.
“We were very pleased. It accomplished what we set out to do, (convey) a sense of reconciling,” said Father Wahl. “I’m amazed at how many people it took to pull this off.”
Father Wahl is already planning for the 2002 All Ministries Conference.
Father Murray in his moving speech said that Christ invites us to sit at his table, not so we’ll stand up better, but so we’ll stand up different.
He left his audience with a tune that had everyone singing “Lord, I want to be like Jesus in-a my heart.”
That afternoon the band of 500 faithful processed three blocks through the streets of downtown Columbia to St. Peter Church. Led by the cross they walked three and four across winding around blocks and filled the air with song. The line seemed endless as they entered the church; Bishop Robert J. Baker finally reached the altar ending the jubilant procession.
The Charleston bishop began a fantastic liturgy with Hispanic tunes and 12 languages as the congregation welcomed diversity and celebrated their differences.