Cathedral hosts Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service

 By Carolyn Purden
The representatives of more than 20 denominations attended a service at St. James’ Cathedral on Jan. 23, celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Welcoming them, Dean Douglas Stoute invited all “to pray with each other, for each other and to increasingly recognize the unity we have in Christ.”

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in 1894. This year, the call for unity came from the church in Jerusalem. In its message to the world’s churches, it called all Christians to rediscover the values that bound together the early Christian community in Jerusalem, and to make the week an occasion for a renewed commitment to work for a genuine ecumenism, grounded in the experience of the early church.

This was the theme picked up by the Most Rev. William McGrattan, auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, in his sermon. He compared the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to a lighthouse that provides a reference point to which we can orient ourselves.

He referred to a passage from Isaiah, read by the Rev. Cheryle Hanna of Yorkminster Baptist Church. The prophet talks of the need for conversion and purification, he said. The purpose for Christians is to open their lives more fully to God’s forgiveness and outpouring of the spirit.

The church has always endeavoured to preach the message of purification and renewal, he added. “This is the path toward unity.”

Bishop McGrattan spoke about the ecumenical dialogues, through which great strides have been made to overcome prejudice. They are a sign of deeper and more trusting relationships, he said, and those engaged in them have benefited from reflecting on their own beliefs.

Dialogues do not mean giving something up, Bishop McGrattan said. Rather, they lead to the growth and enrichment of all our traditions. “The needs of ourselves and others must give way to the proclamation of truth,” he added.

We must continue to dialogue and pray, he said. Ecumenism challenges us, and our divisions challenge the credibility of our witness to the world.

Referring to a passage from Acts, read by James Pedlar, assistant coordinator of faith and witness at the Canadian Council of Churches, Bishop McGrattan said he looked for the great stirring up of the spirit that enlivened the church during the time of Peter.

Prior to the sermon, choristers from St. Michael’s Choir School sang an anthem. The service closed with prayers.

The intercessors were the Most Rev. John Pazak, Eparchial Bishop of the Catholic Slovaks of the Byzantine Rite in Canada; the Rev. Dr. Herb Gale, Moderator, The Presbyterian Church in Canada; the Rev. Fr. Estephanos Issa, St. Barsaumo Syriac Orthodox Church; the Rev. Ilze Kuplens-Ewart of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad; and the Ven. Stephen Nduati of the Diocese of Thika, Anglican Church of Kenya, who is a visiting assistant priest at the cathedral.