On Sunday, June 18, 2000 (one week after Pentecost), four bishops in Michigan signed
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Lee, Jr. (of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan); The Rt. Rev. Edwin Leidel (of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan); The Rt. Rev.
Gary Hansen (of the N/W Lower Michigan Synod); and The Most Rev. Patrick R.
Cooney (of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord) affirmed and attested to the
understanding and belief that:
“It is the will of our Lord Jesus that all his disciples be one. Encouraged by the
international, national and regional dialogues among Lutherans, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics, we celebrate the faithful initiative of our church leaders, past
and present, in fostering church unity. Recognizing the desire for the eventual
union of Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, we the Bishops and
the people of the above named Synod and Dioceses make this joint affirmation
and solemn covenant.”
Thus, the annual LARC (Lutherans, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics) Retreat was born.
With the exception of 2020 due to COVID, over the years, LARC has provided an
annual in-person educational and restful forty-eight hour retreat (over three days and at
the Augustine Center in Conway), with the three denominations taking yearly turns
“hosting” (securing the speaker) and sharing the leading of daily worship, i.e. an
Episcopal day of worship, a Lutheran day of worship, and a Roman Catholic day of
worship (the longer middle day of worship corresponding to the “hosting” denomination).
And over the years many of our various bishops have attended and supported our
efforts. And since the warp and woof of liturgical worship was familiar to all three
denominations –– and was one of the primary considerations which brought the three
denominations together in the first place –– we were able to share theological reflection,
fellowship, meals, and worship together; though some of the fuller expressions of the
unity we’ve hoped to achieve (as expressed in the covenant’s introductory paragraph
above) have remained somewhat elusive since, for example, we are unable to share in
Roman Catholic Eucharist; and they in ours. We have, however, lived through that
tension and remained faithful to the covenant’s stated intent, knowing that the Spirit sometimes moves more slowly than we would like.
But as ecumenical and interreligious efforts (like the Kaufman Interfaith Institute in
Grand Rapids) have gained traction both in Michigan and around the world, the LARC
Planning Committee has sought to broaden its ecumenical outreach to other Christian
denominations. And at its 2021 retreat, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian
Church USA, the United Church of Christ, and the Dominican Sisters were represented
as well. And so riding on this wave of expanded representation and increased
attendance, LARC’s leadership heard the call of the Holy Spirit to similarly change and
expand the retreat’s name from LARC to ECM –– the Ecumenical Community of
Our 2022 Retreat will offer not only an expanded invitation to other denominations, but
will provide an additional day of contemplation, reflection, education, fellowship, and
new patterns of worship as well. Its title is Beholding God in Creation, and will be led by
Pastor Steve Thomas (M. Div.), who has rich experience in spiritually and ecologically
based retreats, and serves as the national coordinator for the Mennonite Men organization. More details will be forthcoming; but for now, please mark your calendars
for ECM: October 10 at 4:PM through Oct 13 at 1:PM.
The Rev. Mike Wernick
Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer
The Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan