Churches gather to pray for unity

Published March 1, 2004

An inter-religious choir performed at a solemn evensong, a first for the Basilica of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. A small Roman Catholic parish in Sorel, Que., heard a woman priest preach, also for the first time. Thirteen different churches gathered for lunch and reflections on peace in Yellowknife. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Lutheran, independent churches and Muslim groups conducted inter-church services in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Churches in Canada and around the world marked the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in ways as unique and diverse as the various religions that they represent, but in common prayers expressing a longing for peace and unity in the world and between churches.

The Week of Prayer, organized each year by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was celebrated Jan.18-25.

While the yearning for an end to the conflict in the Middle East was the backdrop for this year’s celebration, the theme of peace and unity gained resonance within the Anglican Communion, which is being threatened by schism and fraying of ecumenical ties with other churches over the issues of gay bishops and same-sex blessings.

“Let us pray for the worldwide Anglican Communion, for God to reveal its unity that is so hidden from us at this time, and to correct its errors ? divisions, quarrels and schisms, neglect of hospitality,” said a petition prepared and read by Rev. Maylanne Maybee, eco-justice co-ordinator of General Synod, who concelebrated a eucharist at the church’s national office with the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, and Rev. Michael Thompson, principal secretary to the primate.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams marked the occasion by joining religious leaders in greeting Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Orthodox Church in London. In Rome, the WCC reported that Pope John Paul reflected on this year’s theme drawn from John 14:27, “My peace I give to you,” before the Angelus. The pontiff noted that churches of the Middle East, “where unity and peace are the most heartfelt priorities,” had proposed the theme.

Elsewhere in Canada, Dean Peter Williams, of the diocese of Yukon, said that various denominations in his community went on a mountain-top retreat, and gathered at the local Roman Catholic cathedral for a eucharist. “I’d say that the true biblical ecumenism is alive and well in Whitehorse,” said Mr. Williams. Aside from a shared soup kitchen ministry, there have been other informal exchanges including a coffee and fellowship gathering among clergy every month, he said. A Pentecostal parishioner even took him out to lunch and donated $200 to the Anglican church, he added.

In Edmonton, a textile exhibit, Anglicanism and Western Christian Tradition: Continuity and Change, was set up at All Saints’ Cathedral. The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Edmonton and the Anglican diocese of Edmonton jointly organized the exhibit, which was originally commissioned by Norwich Cathedral and has been displayed at the Vatican and other cathedrals in Europe.

In Sorel, Que., the Roman Catholic parish of Saint-Ours and Christ Church Anglican parish exchanged preachers. “I recently arrived in the parish and the community, which, until now, has not known a woman pastor,” Rev. Holly Ratcliffe, incumbent at Christ Church, told the Anglican Journal.

Inter-religious ecumenical gatherings were held at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Lachute, Que., Fort McMurray, Alta. and at St. James United church in downtown Montreal, among others.


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