I am a Catholic Christian who belongs to Árbol de Vida, an ecumenical community in San José, Costa Rica. Since its beginning as a small group of Evangelical and Catholic university students, Árbol de Vida has for 43 years maintained both its interchurch membership, as well as its commitment to ecumenism in the Sword of the Spirit.
Why is ecumenical community so important to me? First of all, being in a covenant relationship with Christians from a church other than my own allows me to share in a relationship of mutual love and service with them, getting to know them closely, and learning to appreciate their own vision as Christians from another church. This is how we respond readily from the heart as we seek for the unity the Lord wants for all the Christian people (see John 17:22-23).
Ecumenical community gives witness to the churches that, with God’s grace, it is both possible, and a great joy for Christians to overcome obstacles of division and respond to the Lord’s prayer “that all may be one”. It is a reminder to the Christian people that this has been God’s purpose in Christ all along, and a summons for us to engage in it by seeking what unites us and not what divides us. This ecumenical attitude can grow and deepen in communities whose members belong to only one church body. Whether we are ecumenical in membership or not, the Spirit empowers us all to pray and strive towards the goal of unity in love that is part and parcel of our spirituality in the Sword of the Spirit.
As for me, being in Árbol de Vida gives me the opportunity to show gratitude often, in very personal and practical ways, for the role that not only Catholics but also many Evangelicals played in my conversion and my growth as a Christian disciple. Today, when, as a Catholic, I relate to and learn from my Evangelical brothers and sisters, I can rightfully proclaim with the psalmist “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron running down on the collar of his robes!” (Psalm 133:1-2).
Efrain is from Costa Rica, and he and his family are part of Arbol de Vida community in San Jose.