Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mass for Christian Unity @ Saint Peter's Church

Saint Peter & Saint Paul
While there's been a bunch of amazing things I've encountered thus far during my year-long vicarage at Saint Peter's Church, one of the greatest of those encounters has been moving through the Christian liturgical year on a deeper level than I'd previously experienced.  One aspect of the liturgical year I never knew about before this year was the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which at least in the Northern Hemisphere is celebrated from 18 January - 25 January.  First celebrated in 1908, the week is also celebrated in many churches, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere near Pentecost.

As Saint Peter's was hosting a monthly gathering of nearby Lutheran vicars and their supervisors last Thursday (right near the end of the week of prayer) it struck me that a Mass for Christian Unity might be a great way to spend our worship time together.  At first I thought I was only going to write a prayer or two, but once I discovered an an annual collection of resources co-created and published by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, I realized that the entire Mass needed to reflect the absolutely amazing work done in the resource.

This year's text, entitled What Does God Require of Us?, is meant to be modified to fit the needs of  individual congregations.  The text is created in a different part of the world each year, and as this year's was created in India, it includes resources for a Liturgy of the Word and daily prayer for Christian unity through the lens of Dalit liberation theologyCheck out the power languages of one of the intercessions included and it's response:
 Walking in celebration, we come to see that the unity we share within
our communities is a profound witness to the gospel of faith and hope.
As we celebrate that unity, let us also rejoice in our rich diversities that
reflect the life of the Trinity.
May we celebrate the wonderful diversity in human life, born from
the struggles for dignity and survival amid oppression, and see in
it a sign of your abiding faithfulness to your people.
I believe our Mass for Christian Unity went exceptionally well, particularly our great homily conversation about the difficulty of feeling unity with our much more conservative sisters and brothers in Christ.  For a copy of the worship guide we used at Saint Peter's, click here.

If you're a reader who has also celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in your faith community, I'd love to hear more about your experience... please leave a comment.

God's peace,
Dustin

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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