This year’s closing liturgy for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Toronto drew an extraordinary number of archbishops, bishops and national church leaders. Among those leading the prayers were: the general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, Lutheran bishop Michael Pryse, Toronto Anglican archbishop Colin Johnson, Roman Catholic archbishop Thomas Collins, Coptic Orthodox bishop Mina, Catholic Slovak bishop John Pazak and Assyrian Church of the East bishop Emmanuel Joseph Mar-Emmanuel. Photo by Michael Swan

Toronto Christian unity service filled with hope

By 
  • January 26, 2015

TORONTO - Dave Williams happened into the closing liturgy for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity entirely by chance. He wandered into Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, saw what was happening and immediately called his wife, Beverly John.

By the end of the service, Williams and John were convinced they had stumbled into something important.

“It turned out to be a lovely thing,” said John. “Not just the singing but to have so many different leaders together. There’s hope.”

The clerics leading the prayers for more than 400 Christians on a cold Sunday, Jan. 25, included nine archbishops, bishops and moderators of nationwide churches and 21 ordinary pastors who covered a range of Christian communities from the Assyrian Church of the East, through several communities of Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans and churches of the Reformation.

“I mean really, this is what we need,” said Ken Barnett, who came down from Unionville where he’s a member of the congregation at Central United. “To be together, to proclaim the Gospel, this was really special.”

For Anne Chang of Blessed Trinity Catholic parish, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity liturgies are annually a moment of hope.

“I believe in ecumenism,” she said. “It brings us together.”

“It’s a time when we need to be together, “ said Yorkminster Park Baptist regular Marsha Berry.

The prayers of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared in Brazil and focused on the theme of water, beginning with the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman by the well.

“He (Jesus) is our unity. He is our living water, our one foundation, our paschal light,” preached Rev. Dr. Paul Scott Wilson, professor of homiletics at the United Church’s Emmanuel College.

“We must be one in compassion, one in acceptance, one in being respectful of others, one in reaching out to the poor, one in joy,” said Wilson.

Just as the Samaritan woman learned there are things more important than the differences in worship between Samaritans and Jews, Christians today must learn how to transcend their differences by listening for Jesus in each other, said Wilson.

“As a Protestant, I often hear what sounds like Christ in the words of Pope Francis,” he said. “The first proclamation of the Church needs to be, ‘Jesus Christ has saved you.’ ”

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