A Shorewood, Wis., couple’s unique way of worshiping has served as a symbol to their community of how the Reformation transformed religion and continues to affect families.

For the entirety of their 42-year marriage, Lou and Jackie Davit have gone their separate ways for Sunday morning church services. He worships at a Roman Catholic church; she attends an ELCA congregation.

This year the Shorewood, Wis., couple’s unique way of worshiping served as a symbol to their community of how the Reformation transformed religion and continues to affect families.

It started with a challenge from Jeff Barrow, bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, to plant 500 trees in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Jackie Davit and Margaret Schoewe, members of Kingo Lutheran Church in Shorewood, immediately approached their pastor, Carolyn Sellers, about Barrow’s challenge. Their goal was to have Kingo raise money to buy apple trees that would be planted in the All People’s Church orchard in inner-city Milwaukee. All People’s is one of Kingo’s partner congregations.

Kingo raised more than $575 for the trees with a special Lenten offering.

“But then this challenge grew in a way that embraced the Reformation more fully,” Sellers said.

Jackie Davit mentioned that her husband’s congregation, St. Martin de Porres Catholic in Milwaukee, might also take interest in this challenge since they are located just two blocks from the orchard, Sellers said.

“[The Davits] were the perfect people to help lead this effort because [in] all the years of their marriage, they have worshiped separately,” said Schoewe, a retired ELCA pastor.

Part of the bishop’s challenge was to reach out to our Catholic brothers and sisters here in Milwaukee, Jackie Davit said. With her congregation’s blessing, she composed a letter, inviting Bob Stiefvater, priest of St. Martin de Porres, to join Kingo in the planting and watering of the trees.

The correspondence brought Sellers and the Davits together in a meeting with the priest.

“We all quickly agreed that this ‘500 Trees for 500 Years’ challenge would be best served by Lutherans and Catholics uniting together, healing together, and serving together for the good of our mutual faith and community,” Sellers said.

“Trees represent growth rooted in a promised future. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. The leaves of the tree—in this case, five honeycrisp apple trees—would be healing for our city, taking up the Revelation 22 prophecy,” she said.

On May 6, Schoewe and Tim Kitzke, a pastor of Three Holy Women Roman Catholic Church in Milwaukee, presided together at All People’s for a worship and tree planting service commemorating the Reformation anniversary. Members from Kingo, All People’s and St. Martin de Porres all gathered for the event.

“Having those trees planted is a constant reminder of commitment not only to our orchard, but to the presence and role the church plays in our communities,” said Aida Muñiz, pastor of All People’s. “Our community will benefit from those new trees and their fruits for years to come. That fills our hearts with joy.”

The Lutheran and Catholic congregations continue to share responsibility for watering the trees.

“As I stood at the bottom of the hill and watched all the folks digging in the earth, it was very emotional for me,” Jackie Davit said, reflecting on the tree planting service. “Folks of different ages, sizes, skin colors and church backgrounds, all working together for the good of the city—planting trees that would clean the air, make good use of rainwater, and one day produce food and shade. It was and is a sign of hope for our community.”

Cindy Uken
Cindy Uken is a veteran, award-winning reporter based in Palm Springs, Calif. She has worked at USA Today, as well as newspapers in South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and California.

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