December 17, 2021

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a sign of universality

Fr. Rick GintherAs the cold sweeps over us during the coming winter months, we long for the warmth of August!

My column that month highlighted an interfaith gathering and an ecumenical gathering: the Festival of Faiths and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, respectively.

The cold of January invites us to the latter.

Next month, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’s prayer service will be both in-person and livestreamed. This arrangement simultaneously cares for our hunger for gathering and allows those who are more virus-vulnerable to participate. It also provides for last-minute adjustment for inclement weather.

We will gather at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 1660 Kessler Blvd. East Drive, in Indianapolis, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25. Prelude music will begin about 6:45 p.m.

The church, which is located west of Bishop Chatard High School and Christ the King Parish, has existed since 1945 as a member church of the Presbytery of the Whitewater Valley (Presbyterian Church, USA).

The service is open to all Christians. People of other faiths may also attend to witness the longing of Christians “to be one.”

Leaders of worship will be the heads (judicatories) of many of the Christian denominations whose regional, diocesan or statewide headquarters are located in Indianapolis. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson will be among them.

The prayer service’s text is a gift to the world from The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). Four Church families—Evangelical, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic—make up the MECC.

The Council has a multifaceted mission. It acts as a bridge: first, between Churches, removing barriers and prejudice, and building a common witness to the resurrected Lord; next, between Christians and peoples of other religions in the region, especially with Muslims; and finally, between the Middle East and the rest of the Christian world. This is accompliashed in a very challenging setting.

The Prayer Service is titled “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (Mt 2:2).

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2022’s introductory notes state that “the appearance of the star in the sky of Judea represents a long-awaited sign of hope, that leads the Magi, and indeed all peoples of the Earth, to the place where the true king and Savior is revealed.”

The Magi are “a symbol of the diversity of peoples” of the time, “and a sign of the universality of the divine call,” the document notes.

Commentators also see “in the Magi’s eager search for the newborn king, all humanity’s hunger for truth, for goodness and for beauty.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of humanity’s longing for God since the beginning of creation (chapter 1). That longing finds deep expression when human beings gather in homage and for prayer.

But it also invites deeper reflection upon our simultaneous longing for unity among Christian believers. To facilitate such reflection, an eight-day (octave) booklet has been produced for individuals and small groups. The booklet has been sent electronically to all pastors, parish life coordinators and religious education leaders of the parishes in the archdiocese.

It has also been sent to the leaders of other Christian denominations to invite their members to use it.

This shared resource could provide an opportunity for neighboring Christian churches to reflect together on Jan. 18-25, either in person or electronically.

The recurring cold of winter pushes us inward. Perhaps this time could be complimented by eight days of shared reflection and prayer. We would then be drawn outward to one another in Christ!

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful post-Christmas winter’s gift?

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Indianapolis.)

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