FAPC Welcomes Cardinal Dolan on Reformation Sunday

Listen to Cardinal Dolan’s sermon here.

His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, will be the guest preacher at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Oct. 29, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

A Roman Catholic prelate on Reformation Sunday? Yes, it is an unexpected choice.

"When I was growing up in Minnesota, Reformation Sunday would always be an opportunity for the local Protestant clergy to tell us how far superior we were to the Roman Catholics who were left behind by the events of 1517," Senior Pastor Scott Black Johnston said in announcing Cardinal Dolan's visit to the congregation last month. "With the 500th anniversary approaching, I thought what better time to do some healing of that divide. I’m excited that we’re going to do something to build bridges in a world that lately seems more intent on burning them down."

The Cardinal, too, is excited to make the short journey up Fifth Avenue to be here.

"That you, my neighbors, would invite me to preach and pray with you on Reformation Sunday is a genuine gift for which I am grateful," he says. "Pardon the Latin, but ecclesia semper reformanda—the Church is always in need of reform. With God’s push, let’s do it together!"

Ecclesia semper reformanda. If there is a Latin phrase that Presbyterians know by heart, it's that one. It's actually Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, or "the Church reformed, always reforming." The Cardinal will address these words in his sermon, "The Reformation Continues ..."

"A vision of the church reformed and always being reformed is one of the gifts the Reformed have to bring to the wider Christian church," writes Anna Case-Winters, professor of theology at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Her 2004 essay for Presbyterians Today is worth reading to understand our Reformed heritage and prepare for the Cardinal's message.

Only a few times in FAPC's history has a Roman Catholic priest been part of a worship service here. We have never had a Cardinal in our pulpit, and certainly not on Reformation Sunday. But Cardinal Dolan's visit represents a growing partnership between FAPC and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

This year our two congregations, along with Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, formed the Fifth Avenue Ecumenical Outreach Partnership, a collaborative ministry serving individuals experiencing homelessness in midtown. The partnership supports John Sheehan, LMSW, as a full-time social worker, who provides clothing, food, referrals and social services to our neighbors in need. Since the partnership began in June, John has served 528 men and women through his FAPC office and direct street outreach. Recently Cardinal Dolan himself referred a woman he found sleeping on his front steps to John's good care.

"To have the presence of churches and synagogues along historic Fifth Avenue is an affirmation of Emmanuel," he says, drawing this time on Hebrew. "God is with us!"

His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan will preach during our 11 am worship service on Sunday, Oct. 29, in the Sanctuary. There will be no 9:30 am service on this day.

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Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church