Oklahoma celebrates Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Annual prayer service on Jan. 25Fr. Don Wolf, pastor of St. Eugene Church, proclaims the Gospel during a prayer service for the 2014 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. Methodist Bishop Robert Hayes and Rev. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, preached during the event.

By Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick

 Jesus prayed for his disciples, “that all may be one (John 17:21),” and all Christians are invited to join in this prayer. On Sunday, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m. a prayer service to commemorate the 108th annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be held at Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church, 7336 W Britton Road.

 

 The free event is hosted by the Oklahoma Alliance for Liturgy and the Arts.

 The service will include music, scripture, prayer, sacred dance and two speakers – the Rev. Joseph Alsay, rector of Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, and Dr. Randall Faulkner, senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church.

 The Oklahoma Alliance for Liturgy and the Arts, an interdenominational organization that aims to promote visual and performing arts in Oklahoma churches, presents the service each year at different churches.

 “I believe this event is important because it takes us a step closer in actualizing the prayer that Jesus prayer for all of his followers. Personally, it is important to me because, since my earliest youth I have sought and endeavored to worship and work with Christians of all denominations,” Rev. Alsay said.

 Father Stephen Bird, pastor of Epiphany and president of the Oklahoma Alliance for Liturgy and the Arts, said, “This will be the first year the service will be held in a Catholic church and we hope that many people from Epiphany, Metropolitan Baptist and Saint Augustine of Canterbury will come. We hope Catholics from other parishes will come as well. We all need to work together for Christian unity.”

 The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was first celebrated at the Atonement Franciscan Convent of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Father Paul James Wattson and Sister Lurana White, American Episcopalians and co-founders of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, worked and prayed for the reunion of the Anglican Communion with the Roman Catholic Church. They initiated the Church Unity Octave to begin on the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter on Jan. 18 and to continue to the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on Jan. 25.

 When Wattson and White were received into the Catholic Church, Pope Pius X gave his blessing to the Church Unity Octave, and in 1916 Pope Benedict XV encouraged the universal church to participate.

 In Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Alliance for Liturgy and the Arts has sponsored an annual prayer service since 2011. The event has been held at Oklahoma City University, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Saint Paul Lutheran Church and Chapel Hill United Method Church.

 Past speakers included Archbishop Paul Coakley, retired Episcopal Bishop Stephen Charleston, active Episcopal Bishop Edward Konieczny and Lutheran Bishop Michael Girlinghouse.

 This year’s service will include an award-winning hymn written for the 100th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The hymn, written by Steven Ottományi, poetically summarizes the importance of the event.

 “Lord Jesus Christ, who rose from death, our spirit’s life, our spirit’s breath: You show the way that leads to peace, where anger sleeps, where hatreds cease,” it begins. The hymn ends, “Now make of us one family of faith, of hope, of charity.”

 For more information, contact Bob Waldrop at (405) 722-2110 Ext. 115.

Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick is a freelance writer and columnist for the Sooner Catholic.