Common ground sought in special week of prayer

 — Jan. 12, 200812 janv. 2008

This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in North America, and the 20th anniversary of the event in Saskatoon.

Sister Juliana Heisler, director of parish life at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, has witnessed a steady increase in interest over the past two decades.

“Services of prayer are held all over the city in many different churches,” she says. “That is what is so beautiful about it. It’s lovely to meet and pray with people from the different denominations.”

The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (PCE) organizes the local Week of Prayer, involving early morning prayer services held in a different church each day.

“It is a profound spiritual discipline,” says director Jan Bigland-Pritchard. “Those who attend become a travelling congregation joining with turnout from the hosting church. Some go every day; others take in two or three events during the week.”

The Week of Prayer goes Sunday-to-Sunday and begins Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. at Christ Church, 515 28th St. West. A schedule can be found at:

Half-hour services begin at 7 a.m., followed by a light breakfast provided by the host church.

“The breakfast is important,” Bigland-Pritchard says, “because our churches are not at the place yet where we share communion together. This is a wonderful way for us to break bread together.”

The week will be highlighted by a number of special events including the performance of the Saskatoon Men’s Chorus at the opening service; a jazz service of sacred music and prayer; a music festival featuring several local choirs; a Spanish/English service; a healing service; a contemporary-styled Gen-X service for the 30- somethings; and a praise and prayer gathering for teens and young adults at the Youth for Christ centre.

For Sister Juliana Heisler, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has always been a life-giving event. “For me, this is such a rich experience. I have always been interested in other faiths. I grew up that way, and the order I belong to has always been involved in ecumenical activities. I believe it is important for Christians of all denominations to meet with each other, to talk about our similarities and differences, and to learn about one another.”

Bob and Marie Klombies say: “We will continue to love, understand and recognize our sameness, for God created us all as equals. We have done this for the better part of 20 years. The Week of Prayer not only feeds our souls as individuals, but has brought us closer to loving and understanding those of different Christian traditions. The ecumenical movement has been, and continues to be, spirit-led and spirit-fed. It fulfils Christ’s commandment to love one another.”

Retired pastor Vern Ratzlaff remarks: “My experience of accumulated Week of Prayer sessions over the years has been of about twenty weeks of prayer in the company of others in God’s family. In singing, reading, praying and eating together, we deepen our kinship with our fellow pilgrims.”

Don Balzer, a member of Avalon Alliance Church, is on the organizing committee of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He calls himself the evangelical voice.

“There tends to be a gap in terms of the involvement of evangelicals in ecumenism,” he says. “It is a ministry of mine to close that gap.”

“Some people assume that ecumenism is a done deal,” says Bigland- Pritchard, “but it’s not. People say, ‘We’re all one in Christ anyway,’ but even today we see people killing each other where only weeks before they were united. Christian unity and reconciliation has to be re-done all the time, and having this week of prayer for people to meet together in a safe place and pray for unity is best thing we can do.”

Bigland-Pritchard tells of a call that was received by PCE office manager Carol Penner. “The person said, ‘What is ecumenism, anyway? Does it have something to do with feet?’

We laughed about it until I realized that yes, ecumenism does have to do with feet. It has to do with getting your feet out of your own church and your own comfort zone and going out to meet other followers of Jesus. After all, how can we work together and love each other as Christ instructed us to do if we don’t get out and meet one another? We can’t do it by staying in our own little huddle and praying for Christian unity.

“It is hard and painful work sometimes, but Jesus didn’t call us to be comfortable. That’s why the church exists — to love one another, and reach out as Christ did to those who are different from us.”

Posted: Jan. 12, 2008 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, Saskatoon, WPCU
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, Saskatoon, WPCU

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