By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Anglican Bishop Chris Harper called for a deeper focus on praying for Christian unity during his homily at an opening service for the 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Saskatoon, held at Knox United Church on a cold Sunday afternoon Jan. 19.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Saskatoon: DETAILS
“The week for Christian unity begins — but what does that mean for us as Christians, especially in a world with such division?” asked Bishop Harper as he began his reflection following proclamation of a scripture reading about Paul’s ship being besieged by a storm in Acts 27:18-19 and the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple from Luke 18:9-14.
“There are so many ways that we put up fences and borders, seen and imaginary,” he said.
Harper also described the great blessing of gathering as brothers and sisters in Christ for the first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity since he became the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon.
“How important it is that we step out today from beyond those borders.”
Often our prayer is a response to being in a difficult or dangerous spot — such as the storm and the sinking ship facing Paul in the reading from acts — but Christians are being called to “raise their voices as one in prayer in support and love and blessing of each other” at all times and in all conditions, he said.
“Do we need to be driven down to our knees in times of desperation …when something bad is going to happen?” he challenged, encouraging prayer as the first course of action at all times. “And can we start as Christians, as a gathering of believers in Christ, and come back to the basics of things?”
The bishop observed that when we are asked “what is your faith?” we often respond by naming our particular denomination, rather than beginning with the first and most basic truth: “I am a Christian.”
Naming our Christian identity first helps us to avoid an “us and them” position, he said.
“Let us first and foremost state that ‘I am Christian’ and to respect each other for our differences, and to respect each other for our ministries, and still be able to walk together ecumenically and as one in the Body of Christ.”
During the opening service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Mary Nordick, Chair of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, provided words of welcoming for the gathering, along with Rev. Brian Maitland, pastor of the hosting community of Knox United Church.
Prayers during the service included material prepared by Christians in Malta, the site of Paul’s shipwreck, where he the kindest mentioned in the theme for this year’s Week of Prayer: “They showed us unusual kindness (Acts: 28-2).”
“In the face of our difference and distance, God, call us back to the core of what we believe and what Jesus teaches — to love the stranger, to overthrow the walls of division, to rest firmly in relationship with You and therefore with each other,” the assembly prayed together. “Help us to live as sisters and brothers in faith, welcoming everyone in Your name, sharing with each other the joy of being Your people, made in Your image, yearning to be fully disciples of Jesus.”
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity continues in Saskatoon until Jan. 26, with 8 a.m. services in different churches each week, and with special events including a hymn-singing evening “Singing into Unity” 7:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 21 at St Stephen’s Anglican Church, 10 Grosvenor Crescent, Saskatoon; a prayer service and luncheon 12:00 pm Thursday, Jan. 23 at Queen’s House, 601 Taylor Street West, Saskatoon; and an Ecumenical Ceilidh (social event with music) 7:30 pm Friday, Jan. 24 at Christ Church Anglican, 515 28th Street West, Saskatoon.
The closing service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be held at 3:00 pm Sunday, Jan. 26 at St Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, 1902 Munroe Avenue (at Taylor Street East), Saskatoon.