Monday, January 25, 2010

Christian unity celebrations

Practical steps towards unity of Christians took place this week in villages, towns and communities all over Ireland.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was celebrated everywhere from cathedrals to parish halls and country churches, with the hope of greater unity and witness amongst Christians.

In Abbeyleix, Co Laois, parishioners from the town’s Catholic and Church of Ireland parishes got together on Tuesday.

This year it was the turn of the Catholics to host the ecumenical service.

“There was a nice atmosphere; people were saying that as they left the church. It was held in the adoration church, which is intimate - if you go into a big church and have around 70 people, they are a bit lost. So creating an atmosphere is important,” said Fr Gerard Ahern, PP, Abbeyleix.

He explained that this is the only formal ecumenical event in the parish, but the Christian communities work together on occasions such as the senior citizens party.

“We were just saying that we should try to do something else during the year rather than come together just once,” he told ciNews. “I was in Carlow before I came here and we did nothing on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity but at Lent we met once every week for the 7 weeks.”

In Abbeyleix Fr Ahern is joined every year by Cannon Patrick Harvey from the Church of Ireland at the ecumenical service along with people from their parishes.

This year for the first time there was a guest preacher Rev Bill Onstead, a Methodist, from the Portlaoise area. He preached on the theme "You are witnesses to these things" (Luke 24:48).

This was the theme for all participating churches this year and the Irish Bishops Conference put together prayers, readings and suggestions for services.

The global organisers (the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches) of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity asked Scotland to be this year's host.

2010 marks the centenary of the first World Mission Conference that met in Edinburgh in 1910 on the theme "Witnessing to Christ today.”

This gathering is traditionally seen as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement, which seeks to promote the visible unity of the world's divided churches.
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