GREENCASTLE -- Discussions of Christianity are all too often pocked by points of separation and difference. People tend to focus on what makes denominations different, what unites them.
For a group of ministers here in Putnam County, this is not a problem. For several years, this loose group of clergy has been meeting twice a month, fellowshipping, praying and enjoying what one of them calls "shared social ministry."
"This is not an official organization; it's an informal gathering," said Paul Champion of First Christian Church in Greencastle. "We do not, as a group, take specific doctrinal stances."
"This came out of a mutual support for one another and being able to show some unity in the county," said P.T. Wilson of Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church.
The group meets with no specific agenda. Rather than focus on doctrine, they simply share their lives, pray for one another and for one another's congregations.
"It's just helpful to have a sympathetic ear and to have someone who understands what you're going through," said Mark Miller of Greencastle Christian Church.
Miller has been with GCC for 29 years and remembers a time when that sort of unity and understanding in a "ministerial association" was difficult to find.
"There was a lot more sitting around talking about differences," Miller recalled. "I found it to be a negative thing for me.
"In this group, the emphasis is on fellowship, caring about one another, sharing with one another," he said.
Wilson credits some of the change to new clergy coming into the community. While Miller, Alan Barber of Peace Lutheran and Bill Wieland of St. Andrew's Episcopal are long-serving members of the community, many of their comrades have come to the community in the last several years.
"There's a good feeling of 'Let's meet each other and see what we can do,'" Wilson said.
"We emphasize the common instead of the differences," Champion added.
Out of this fellowship and sharing has come a spirit of collaboration absent among the clergy of many communities. One tangible effect of this collaboration will be seen in Thursday's National Day of Prayer events in Greencastle.
While the day has been observed nationwide since it became law in 1952, it is all too often an event observed by individual churches or by which certain churches and doctrines are separated from others.
"In the last three counties I've served in, the National Day of Prayer became a litmus test as to whether you believed in certain social issues," Wilson said. "It's not like that here. That's a positive, and it's unique in central and southern Indiana."
Randy McNeely of First Baptist Church in Greencastle echoed Wilson's thoughts, saying he had previously been in only one community with ministers who collaborated in this way.
Here in Greencastle, National Day of Prayer will be observed in three different times and locations. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., First Christian Church at 110 S. Indiana St. will host a number of prayer stations at which individuals may move freely and pray at their leisure.
From noon to one, there will be a time of prayer at the Robe-Ann Park bandshell.
Finally, community members are invited to the Putnam County Courthouse from 7 to 8 p.m. for a time of prayer featuring ministers from a number of local congregations. The event will feature prayer times focused on praise and reverence, personal responsibility and a celebration of God's goodness.
Of the final event, Miller expressed his thanks to the commissioners for being so willing to grant the use of the courthouse.
"One thing I've been appreciative of is the commissioners allowing us to use the courthouse. They didn't even bat an eye," Miller said. "I'm just glad they made it available to us."
Thanks for the event should also go to the ministers and the bonds they have formed through their shared meetings.
"Having that relationship allows you to extend that to this National Day of Prayer event and to community outreach projects," Miller said. "These kinds of things are healthy. We can share the love of Christ together."
Like the bi-monthly meetings, they see Thursday's event as a chance not to highlight difference and controversy, but a time to share.
"It's not a protest. It's not political. It's just prayer -- God's people coming together to pray," Miller said.