Challenge to show “Unusual Kindness” – Closing service for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity held in Saskatoon

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Oars marked with powerful words spoken in prayer were brought forward during a celebration Jan, 26 at St. Philip Neri Parish in Saskatoon for the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The words of prayer and reflection – reconciliation, enlightenment, hope, trust, strength, hospitality, conversion, and generosity – along with the nautical symbol of oars provided a visible connection to the 2020 scriptural theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, taken from the account in Acts 28:2 of St. Paul’s experience of help provided after a shipwreck: “They showed us unusual kindness.”

“Unusual kindness” is what Christians are called to in their relationship with others, said fr. Jakob Palm of Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church, who gave the homily at the closing service.

“You will have a really hard time seeing the divinity of Christ if you fail to see the humanity of your neighbour,” said Palm.

“Jesus sees our potential, our willingness to do good things even though we often fail. He sees our story and what happened to us. He can empathize fully. He sees our shame and our guilt as the very point from where he can launch his reconciliation. What needs to happen is that we as his hands and feet – as his body – start to share his vision, that we start to see ourselves as Jesus sees us, with kindness in love, diverse but one.”

Kindness is one of the chief characteristics of Jesus, Palm stressed. “Kindness is the key that opens the door to the heart made of stone. …When we are kind, we give room and space to others to tell their story of broken heartedness. We take the time to listen rather than just ‘solve a problem.’ To be kind is to be present with each other and all of creation in the moment.”

In a broken relationship, a first step to healing is to think and act with kindness, he continued. “Kindness refrains from passing judgements on other persons’ beliefs but also gives you the courage to give an honest answer when asked for your point of view. … To offer a smile rather than the face of judgment reconciles the world. We can do this every day. Be kind: it will open up the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

During his message at the Jan. 26 closing service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Palm urged his listeners to walk in the care of Christ. “The good news of the Kingdom is that healing – and that which is good, true, benevolent and just – is actually possible for the world and each and every one of us. It is the reality of true peace. Despite everything that is happening in the world, true love and true peace is possible. The Church is supposed to incarnate this new reality –  it is time that we took the next step in faith to put not only our talking but also our walking, our whole being, in the care of Christ.”

Pentecost 2020 May 31 at Sasktel Centre

Palm concluded his homily by looking forward to another upcoming ecumenical event in Saskatoon – “Pentecost 2020: One in the Holy Spirit”, to be held the afternoon of May 31 at Sasktel Centre. Doors for that free event open at 2 p.m., with the celebration beginning at 3 p.m. on the Sunday on which many Christians celebrate Pentecost – a day commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus, held 50 days after Easter.

The event website describes the Pentecost 2020 event, which will involve dozens of Christian churches in Saskatoon and is open to all, including those with no connection to a church: “We will sing, confess our faith, hear scriptures, pray, and acknowledge where we have missed the mark as church.”

“By focusing on Jesus Christ and his unifying person we can gather under one roof despite our differences, reflecting a God who is three persons in one communion. The common understanding is that there are several churches because of how we as a church have acted. But there is only one church – the body of Christ, and He is not divided. It is time that we begin to reflect that reality in practical ways.” – Pentecost 2020 WEBSITE

Jan. 26 prayer services winds up week of prayer

Participants at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closing celebration share a greeting / sign of peace. (Photo by Cathryn Wood of Prairie Centre for Ecumenism)

Prayers during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closing service Jan. 26  included the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as prayers of penitence for times of division and lack of charity, as well as prayers affirming unity and reconciliation: “We have come together as Christians, and therefore as fellow disciples. As we yearn for Christian unity, let us commit ourselves anew to work for this common goal.”

Worship leaders and participants at the Jan. 26 service included Fr. Mike Dechant, OMI, pastor at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, Rev. Patrick Preheim of Nutana Park Mennonite Church, Rev. Trent Felstrom of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Gerri Maddill of Calvin Goforth Presbyterian Church, and Cathryn Wood of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, as well as Mary Nordick of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism and St. Philip Neri parishioners Norman Lipinski, Shirley Hyshka, and Rachelle Brockman. Music ministry was provided by a choir led by Joanne Lysyshyn, with Art Evoy as cantor.

A social time followed the worship service Jan. 26 at St. Philip Neri Parish. (Photo by Cathryn Wood of Prairie Centre for Ecumenism)