DENMARK — Lent is traditionally a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In Denmark, you can add ecumenical partnership.
For over a decade, Catholics from All Saints in Denmark, St. Mary in Glenmore/Stark, Holy Trinity in New Denmark, St. Joseph in Kellnersville and St. James in Cooperstown have partnered with members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Zion United Methodist for a weekly Lenten lunch series.
The Denmark churches — All Saints, Our Savior’s Lutheran and Zion United Methodist — take turns hosting the Lenten lunches. On April 3, about 85 people attended the noon gathering in the basement of All Saints Church. The meal, consisting of split pea, chicken dumpling and chili soups, breads and desserts, was prepared by members of Holy Trinity and St. Mary parishes.
Deacon Jim Trzinski, pastoral coordinator of All Saints Parish, said the community looks forward to these gatherings, which also include prayer and a short reflection. This year, the churches are taking turns reflecting on the Stations of the Cross.
“We wanted to do something more devotional this year, so we chose the stations,” said Deacon Trzinski.
Rev. Andy Zoerb, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran for the past eight years, said the Lenten lunch series is just one of the activities the churches hold throughout the year. Others include worship services and meals. The churches will hold a Sunday evening ecumenical service Aug. 4 at Denmark Community Park, he said.
“This is the formal organization of what the churches are doing,” Rev. Zoerb said. “Informally, all of these people know each other. They are neighbors. They are way farther along ecumenically than most of us religious leaders are, just because they don’t consider it a boundary. They are just moving right along.”
For example, he said a quilting group from Our Savior’s Lutheran quilts blankets for the veteran’s home in King. “They have Catholics, Lutherans and others working together in this ministry,” he said.
Pastor Laura Riemer of Zion United Methodist Church said the cooperation of Denmark’s Christian churches is an example of strength in numbers. “We did a Love Life baby shower from my Denmark church and one of the ladies from Our Savior said she was so thankful to work together, to do the good of the Lord,” said Pastor Riemer. “We are stronger together than we are apart, so I appreciate that we can join forces.”
Deacon Trzinski offered the April 3 reflection on Stations 10, 11 and 12.
He focused on a journey with Christ, using personal examples of friends or acquaintances who have suffered. His reflections were offered in poetic stanzas, with the three Stations of the Cross borrowed from Holy Trinity Church serving as meditational backdrops.
For the 10th Station, Deacon Trzinski shared a reflection of a couple who “were stripped of their material possessions and business” following bankruptcy. He said God walked with them through their suffering, “helped them back to their feet,” and his friend went on to be ordained a deacon.
Reflecting on Jesus nailed to the cross in Station 11, Deacon Trzinski said he was reminded of his mother, who suffered from ALS. “I knew I was with her as she was sharing in the nailing to the cross,” he said. “But just like Jesus, she loved me to the end…”
With Jesus dying on the cross in the 12th Station, Deacon Trzinski recalled the day domestic abuse took the life of a woman killed by her estranged husband. “For on that day, I was taken back to that Station where Jesus was lifted high, when I too shared the anguish of a family whose daughter had died,” he said.
Deacon Trzinski’s reflection was greeted with enthusiastic applause.
Each year, Lenten lunch participants are asked to bring food donations for local food pantries. Freewill offerings are also taken, with proceeds going to food shelves. This year, Deacon Trzinski suggested that attendees donate items for an ecumenical children’s Easter egg hunt, which will be held Saturday, April 20, 11 a.m., at All Saints Church.