Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a Pentecostal, an Eastern-Orthodox seminary student, and a Catholic Friar walk into a bar…
At the 2015 National Festival of Young Preachers, I met two people who would end up defining my Festival experience. The first was Tristan Gall. He was in his last year of seminary and preparing to become an Eastern Orthodox priest. He told me he used to be an elementary school teacher, but was now following his calling into the ministry. I can’t remember if he was in my preaching circle or not, but we quickly clicked and talked every day of the festival. He was the first Eastern Orthodox person I had ever talked to.
The second person was Friar Dominic, of the Dominican Order or Order of Preachers (OP). Dominic was not hard to spot. He wore a white frock, or habit. I attended a Master Class where he taught how to use the lectionary. After that class, I connected with him and we had a few conversations. He was the first Dominican, and the first person who regularly wore a habit, that I had ever talked to.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but one night at the Festival, I found myself, Tristan, and Dominic sitting at the same table in the hotel bar. We all ordered drinks, they each had a local beer and I had my mocktail (a mix of fruit juices you learn to drink when you are a 19-year-old Pentecostal working as a bar-back), and we began one of my favorite conversations in my life. We talked Church, theology, preaching, denominations, and misconceptions of our denominations. We explained our traditions, liturgy, and practice to each other. They opened my eyes to see the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox as members of the same body of Christ that I belonged to, instead of seeing them as just members of old and strange groups. It was at that table, with glasses slowly growing empty, that I discovered what it means to be a part of something truly ecumenical. It was at that table that I experienced what the Academy of Preachers and the National Festival truly has to offer.
At some point in our conversation, a woman came up to Dominic. They had a very short conversation, which I didn’t really hear or understand, and she left. Dominic explained that she was a Catholic from a country around the Middle East (I can’t remember which one) and was overjoyed to see a Priest. Dominic paused for a moment and excused himself from the table so he could go to the woman and her family in the lobby and pray with them. He did, then he came back and we resumed our conversation. Then a few minutes later, the woman came back to the table and gave something to Dominic and left. He showed us that she had given him her rosary.
Then something really cool happened.
Dominic said he thought I should have the rosary. We had spent part of the night discussing how ritual and liturgy could be effective in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, and he wanted to give me a meaningful piece of Catholic ritual to take with me. Astonished and humbled, I asked him how I was supposed to use it. His response still makes me laugh. He said, “Well, I could give you some pamphlets that explain it, but it’s all a bit complicated. Tristan, teach him what you do, it’s easier.” Tristan then taught me an Eastern Orthodox prayer to pray with each bead on the rosary. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
I still have that rosary. I wore it to preach at the ’17 and ’18 National Festivals, and I have worn it for almost every sermon I have preached since 2015. Every time I put it on, I am reminded of my two brothers in Christ and the common mission we share.
So yes, a Pentecostal, an Eastern-Orthodox, and a Catholic walked into a bar. The Catholic asked the Eastern Orthodox to teach the Pentecostal how to pray. The Pentecostal became a Methodist who preaches with a rosary.
Only at the National Festival of Young Preachers is this a true story and not a weird joke.
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About the author…
Nick Bettis, AoP ’15, is a certified Elder candidate in the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is the Communications Assistant here at the Academy of Preachers. After earning a degree in Pastoral Ministry and 5 years in youth ministry in Missouri, Nick and his wife Shelby now live in Wilmore, KY, where he is a student in the MDiv program at Asbury Theological Seminary.