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Week of prayer for Christian unity in San Fernando*              

Under the theme Justice, a number of Christian Churches in San Fernando gathered over a period of five days to observe a week of Prayer for Christian Unity: the period between Ascension and Pentecost (May 14–18). The representatives were drawn from the Anglican, Ethiopian Orthodox, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, The Salvation Army, Seventh-Day Adventist and Pentecostal Churches.

Each leader focused on various aspects of justice and included reflections on the life and dignity of the human person, the importance of justice within the family, solidarity, the dignity of work and the rights of workers, unfair wages, discrimination, abuse and harassment, the poor and the homeless and the care of God’s creation.

Drawing on Biblical references and real-life experiences, the presenters elaborated on the importance of the exercise of justice and the necessity of looking closely at our society with its apparent insurmountable challenges and developing solutions which could be gleaned through the teachings of Jesus.

It was noted that it was not enough to speak about justice and unity as Christians in all walks of life were called to a higher standard so they had to be “one in the Lord” and so work together for the restoration of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

At the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on Wednesday, May 16, the congregation was exposed to facets of the Church’s traditional worship which involved the use of chants, incense, ringing of bells, a hymn of praise to Mary and prayers in Amharic and English. It was an inspiring service with the similarities between the Western and the Eastern Rites brought to the fore.

On Thursday, May 17, there was an open-air service at the Skiffle Bunch pan yard with the main speaker being Rev Cordell Williams of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. He encouraged those present to be merciful and compassionate to all so that justice could flourish. Drawing on certain parables, he reminded of Jesus’ care for those who were victims of corrupt practices, nepotism, selfishness and greed.

In addition to reflections from the Christian leaders, the services devoted segments to prayers of intercessions for the concerns of the country, the plight of the unemployed and the homeless, the sick, the mission of Christian Church and for those who had or would be doing examinations.

The periods of Praise and Worship were led by the youth and choirs from the Churches and this dramatised the unifying influence of music and the presence of the Holy Spirit among the congregation.

At the final service, the atmosphere was heightened through the songs of praise, the reflection on the care for God’s creation and the presence of all the leaders including Rev Clifford Rawlins of the Diego Martin United Church (an amalgamation of Methodist, Moravian and Presbyterian traditions).

Before bestowing the closing benediction, he took the opportunity to highlight the positive work being undertaken by Pope Francis and heads of other religious traditions in their quest towards ecumenism and unity among Christians through diversity.

It was agreed that the benefits derived from the week’s activities should be reviewed and efforts made to build on the successes so that the Christian Churches in San Fernando would demonstrate that they would stand together for what they believe so that all would know through their deeds and affirmations that it is possible for all to live in peace and unity. – Delia Chatoor