Tri-Faith Christian Community Update
My Brothers and Sisters –
I write to offer an update regarding the current status of the Christian presence in the Tri-Faith Initiative, and in particular, to report on conversations now in progress with Countryside Community Church in Omaha.
As you know, the Diocese of Nebraska, and our current Christian congregation at Tri-Faith, have been seeking partners to help bolster the Christian Tri-Faith presence for some time. Partly that’s been about excitement regarding building an ecumenical Church community on the Tri-Faith campus. As importantly, we’ve sought partners to ensure that a lively, and large Christian presence gets built on the campus. We’ve known for some time that the Episcopal Church in Nebraska is too small to do this all on our own. As a result of our prayer, conversation and discernment around partnering, we officially added the Lutheran Church (ELCA – Nebraska Synod) to the mix about a year and a half ago. Since that time the Lutherans have supported our efforts of church-building through clergy help, lay engagement, the gift of free church worship space, and cash donations. I am sure I speak for all of us in offering my deep thanks to our ELCA partners for all they’ve contributed to our efforts!
While the addition of our ELCA sisters and brothers has enriched our ministry in many ways, we are still not strong enough as a Christian community to build a church on the Tri-Faith campus worthy of this endeavor. With this in mind, I had an informal conversation with Eric Elnes, Senior Pastor of Countryside Community Church, to explore together the prospect that Countryside might be interested in sharing in leadership of the Tri-Faith Initiative, thereby bringing the resources of a large, extant Christian congregation – with a wonderful history of interfaith engagement – to the table. Eric was very open to conversation and prayer about the prospect. In time, that conversation spread at Countryside Community Church.
Here’s where we are today…
The people of Countryside are engaged in a 40 day period of discernment about whether to accept our invitation to share in leading the Tri-Faith Initiative. Our invitation to Countryside to join in the effort was very broad. The various church leaders who gathered to imagine together how Countryside might join in this work were of the mind that Countryside’s willingness to consider moving to the campus as a congregation, and taking the lead in raising the funds to build a church structure, would effectively and appropriately mean that the torch was being passed to Countryside as chief leader of the Christian Tri-Fath presence. While the Episcopalians and Lutherans involved desire to continue supporting this ministry in every way, we are ready to surrender our place at the head of the table in order to see that a great Church is build on the Tri-Fatih campus as soon as possible. The people of Countryside are still very much in discernment about whether and how to participate in leading the Tri-Faith Initiative. They will vote as a congregation on the matter in late June, and I am sure they covet our prayers for a result that is in accord with the will of the Spirit.
In the meantime, our Christian Congregation at Tri-Fath continues to weekly meet at Rejoice Lutheran Church. The people of Countryside have indicated their hope that if they assume leadership in the Tri-Faith Initiative, the current congregation will continue worshipping at Countryside’s address both now and in the future, and remain an important constituency in interfaith outreach and ministry at Tri-Faith.
I am so grateful for the interest, the passion and the hard, hard work that so many of you have offered in support of the Tri-Faith vision. With you, I remain committed to that vision, and I stand ready to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we realize this dream together, and soon!
Faithfully Yours in Christ –
The Right Rev. J Scott Barker
Bishop of Nebraska