Last Sunday evening I joined parishioners from Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, United, Lutheran and Anglican churches at a prayer service at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in London to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Despite the differences between us we share a common faith in God shown to us in Jesus Christ. This Week of Prayer is an international effort to bring us together to discover again that under our differences in worship and polity we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
The most poignant moment of this service came through the symbolic actions incorporated into our worship. During a litany of confession that recited the many ways in which we divide, separate, hurt and denigrate one another people came to the platform carrying bricks that were built into a wall. Brick by brick our sins of disunity became visible. Later in the service – prayers of commitment to one another led to the bricks of the wall being taken down and placed in the form of a cross on floor. In this powerful visual reminder that through the cross – through the death and resurrection of Christ – we are called to forgiveness, reconciliation and love.
One of the greatest joys of my own journey with Christ has been exploring the gifts of other Christian traditions. I have been nurtured deeply by the gifts of hymnody from Pentecostal choruses to Lutheran chorales to Roman Catholic renewal songs. I have discovered both the evangelical commitment to scripture study and the rich depths of Roman Catholic spiritual traditions of prayer. I am equally moved by a joyful service of prayer and praise and a solemn high mass.
Each of our traditions has strengths and weaknesses. When we share together, and move past the stereotypes that lead us to reject one another – when we listen to the heart of the living faith within the worship and life of our siblings we discover something we need to hear and consider in our own.
In this week – framed by the feasts of St. Peter (January 18) and St. Paul (January 25) – pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those in your own village, town or city. Attend of worship service in your community for this Week. Seek ways to partner together for the sake of the gospel.
Then we may begin to fulfil Christ’s own prayer – ‘that they may be one’ (John 17:21).