Ecumenical services will pray for Christian unity

 — Jan. 10, 198710 janv. 1987

by Rev. R. G. MacNeil, for the Ottawa Citizen

“Christ, Our Reconciliation,” is the theme of the week of prayer for Christian unity to be held this year from Jan. 18 to 25. The observance was initiated 79 years ago by the Rev. Paul Wattson, an Anglican priest in the United States, who called for a response to the will of Jesus, “May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as You are in me and I am in You.” (Jo 17:21)

The Ottawa organizers realize that church life is centred in local areas, and they have opted for more grass-roots types of observances, in preference to one large centralized service for the whole city. So this year ecumenical prayer services and some pulpit exchanges will take place within the area of each ministerial association.

Churches committed to the week of prayer for Christian unity are the Anglican, Baptist, Christian Church (Disciples), Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Church.

They believe that prayers for unity must be accompanied by a spirit of reconciliation when people are seeking harmonious relationships in the midst of different formulations of faith. Ultimately all Christian people believe that unity can be found in fidelity to the person and spirit of Jesus Christ.

Coming together for prayer has helped the Christian churches to dialogue and collaborate in the realization that they have more in common than separates them. All believe in God and in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Prayer together has led to studies concerning the implications of a common baptism which incorporates all Christian people into Jesus Christ.

There have also been new translations of the Bible which tapped the knowledge of the best scholars in every denomination. The same is true for theological study at the university level. Hymns with solid theological and scriptural background as well as musical integrity have enjoyed inter-denominational acceptance. In mission territories, co-operation has replaced competition, and has helped to reduce the negative impact of a divided Christianity.

A change of heart which began with Christian people praying together has also led the Catholic Church to affiliate with the councils of churches in 28 parts of the world. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was accorded associate membership in the Canadian Council of Churches in 1985.

The Christian churches are now speaking with a more united voice on social, cultural, political, moral, economic and welfare projects. They are expressing a joint concern for peace and for the poor and weak. A united voice is also being raised against the racial discrimination, social injustice, pornography and capital punishment.

The Ottawa prayers for Christian Unity are part of a world-wide observance which takes place each January. The organizing churches have prepared scripture and prayer booklets with pages for each day of the week on the theme of reconciliation. They are available in English and French from Novalis, Box 9700 Terminal, Ottawa, K1G 4B4.

(Father MacNeil is weekend assistant at CFB Ottawa chapels and chaplain at St. Joseph’s High School).

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