SASKATOON — The opening of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was celebrated with Scripture, prayer and song Jan. 22 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Saskatoon.
Dr. Darren Dahl, executive director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, preached at the opening celebration: a Catholic lay person preaching in a Lutheran Church as Christians around the world reflect and pray on the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The week of prayer in Saskatoon concluded with a similar celebration Jan. 29, with a Lutheran — Rev. Dirk Lange of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. — preaching at St. Anne Catholic Church.
Prayers and resources for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were developed by Christians in Germany, where the Protestant Reformation with Martin Luther nailing his call for reform on the doors of a Catholic church on Oct. 31, 1517.
The theme of the week of prayer is “Reconciliation — the love of Christ compels us,” taken from 2 Corinthians 5:14-20.
In his sermon, Dahl reflected on themes of worship and “the great heavenly banquet in which all things are gathered together with Christ, around the altar of God.”
He described worship as “the divine presence made real to us in words spoken and sung, in bread and cup, lifted and shared in the company of God’s saints and angels, surrounded by the prayers of God’s people, grounded and placed with handshakes and smiles and a concern of a community of friends.”
Dahl then spoke about the reality of Christian division, which means that the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup are not part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Referencing the hymn “Thine the Amen,” sung after his sermon, Dahl said, “for at least 500 years we have told different stories, with the result being a vineyard known more for its walls and battlegrounds than for its vines.”
The solution for the “sin-sick sheep” who have lost their unity, divided up their story, and lost the common loaf and cup, is to seek healing and salvation in “the same Saviour,” Dahl continued.
“On the other side of our broken story we find each other again in the light of Easter morning,” he said. “As we seek each other in light of our common redemption . . . we see God’s justice flow into the world, as God’s glory shines from the church, and we get our story back, not broken, but made beautiful by the blending of many unique voices.”
In addition to the opening and closing celebrations, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also includes seven a.m. services at different churches across the city each weekday morning, a “Singing into Unity” event Jan. 24, and a luncheon at Queen’s House Jan. 26.
The week also includes the De Margerie Series on Christian Unity and Reconciliation, which this year featured Rev. Dirk Lange giving a lecture at St. Thomas More College Jan. 26 and morning workshops at the Cathedral of the Holy Family on Jan. 27 and 28. Lange’s theme was “Reformation Today: From Conflict to Communion, Together in Hope.”
Celebrations of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are also being held in other communities throughout the world, including Humboldt, which marked the week from Jan. 15 - 22 with evening services at a number of local churches.