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Canton pastors swap pulpits during annual exchange

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CANTON — Five pastors from five village churches swapped pulpits Sunday during their annual pulpit exchange.

The Rev. Douglas J. Lucia, of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 66 Court St., delivered a message to the congregation at First Presbyterian Church, 17 Park St., while its pastor, the Rev. Michael P. Catanzaro, walked over to the Unitarian Universalist Church, 3 E. Main St., to speak to that church’s congregation.

The Rev. Joel Miller of the Unitarian church spoke at St. Mary’s, while the Rev. Michael H. Terrell of the Canton United Methodist Church, 41 Court St., switched pulpits with the Rev. Evette E. Austin of Grace Episcopal Church, 9 E. Main St.

“It’s a learning experience,” the Rev. Mr. Catanzaro said. “It focuses more on endeavoring to find what we all have in common rather than always looking for the differences in the traditions.”

Father Lucia said pastors have been doing the pulpit exchange for about three years.

“It’s trying to fulfill Christ’s prayer before the crucifixion, ‘Father, may they all be one,’” he said. “We know that there have been divisions throughout history and families have squabbles, but this is a way to heal those separations.”

The Rev. Mr. Catanzaro said the pulpit exchange started because the churches have all worked together for years through the Canton Church and Community Program.

“This exchange has us starting to focus on why we work together, rather than just what it is we do,” he said. “There are a lot of groups that can agree on what they want to do together because it has value in and of itself, but for churches the rationale for doing those things is really equally important.”

The Rev. Mr. Catanzaro said one reason churches have continued the pulpit exchange and will continue each coming year is because “it’s fun to be in other places and meet other people.”

Barbara A. Brown, Morristown, Martha J. Cole, Lisbon, and Ellen D. Grayson, Madrid, are members of the First Presbyterian Church’s choir.

“It’s awesome,” Ms. Cole said. “You get to know your neighbors.”

The three women all agreed that the pulpit exchange helps create a stronger sense of community within all of the congregations.

During the worship part of the service, the choir sang their own remade version of the “Cheers” theme song on Sunday to go along with the pastor exchange, because “everybody wants to be where everybody knows your name,” they said.

“When you get down to it, everybody’s got the same purpose, same issues and the troubles are all the same. We need to share that,” Ms. Brown said. “If more churches in the world did this type of exchange, we wouldn’t have as many problems as we do.”

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