The Common Word: An Ecumenical Radio Program
Rev. Dr. Beth A. Macke
“An Episcopal priest, a Catholic priest, a Presbyterian pastor and a Methodist minister walk into a room and…”
While the phrase often serves to introduce an ecumenical joke of questionable taste, it also marks the practice of four ministers serving in and around Henderson, Kentucky. The Common Word is an unscripted ecumenical radio discussion of the Gospel passage from Revised Common Lectionary. The members are: Father Anthony Shonis, the Associate Priest of the Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church; the Rev. Dr. Beth Macke, the Vicar of Peace Episcopal Church in Rockport, Indiana; Pastor Frieda Alexander; pastor of Thruston United Methodist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky; and Rev. John Guthrie, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Henderson.
The program may be characterized as a low budget parallel to ABC’s The View but with Holy Scripture as its basis for conversation and the Holy Spirit as guest. Two men and two women, each bringing a different perspective and heritage, reflect on and discuss the Word of God, theology and contemporary events. Each broadcast is twenty-seven minutes long and includes a reading of the scripture, lively discussion and a closing prayer. “We talk, we laugh, and debate the passage of the day. We bring to bear all that is relevant from our history, liturgy and theology,” says Fr. Tony Shonis. Produced by Bill Stephens, manager of WSON 860 AM and 96.5 FM, the show airs on 8:30 AM Sunday mornings and at 12:00 PM on WKWC 90.3 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Archived recordings of previous programs can be found at wsonradio.com by clicking Audio Archive.
After spending three years completing the Lectionary Cycle of the Gospel scriptures, the panel is devoting its discussion to the first reading appointed for the day, a far greater challenge, because the reading for the Roman Catholics often differs from the Revised Common Lectionary, which itself offers two Old Testament options on most Sundays. Pastor Frieda marvels at the people who have been reached by this ministry, “People who haven’t come to church can turn the radio on and be introduced to a welcoming, loving God that doesn’t conduct an altar call or a financial appeal.”
The program is unique because it bridges the Catholic-Protestant divide as well as the continuum between the more liberal and more evangelical perspectives in Protestantism. “The stories and the companionship are wonderful”, reflects Rev. John Guthrie. “The show allows my members to hear other points of view without having to leave their home church.” The Common Word is a practical, effective, and technologically appropriate ecumenical strategy for the 21st century.
The Rev. Dr. Beth A. Macke is an Episcopal Priest currently serving as Vicar of Peace Episcopal Church in Rockport, Indiana and also as adjunct instructor of Sociology at Henderson Community College. Beth lives on a farm in Henderson County, Kentucky, with her husband, Mark and one 10 year old son, Will .