A Model for Visits to Neighbour Churches

 — Sept. 30, 200330 sept. 2003

A Model for Visits to Neighbour Churches during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
A visit to our neighbour actualizes here and now the Peace promised us

by Angelika Piché
Published in Ecumenism, September 2003

Angelika Piché is Assistant Director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism.

Our journey toward a more visible communion among Christians begins by our being genuinely interested in each other. As in any good neighbourhood, we grow closer together through listening and exchanging points of view; being interested in the experiences of others, offering words of encouragement in difficult times and rejoicing together in happy times are the starting points of a sense of community. Paying a visit to one another is a meaningful and symbolic gesture; it shows that the other is important to us and is also a first step toward Christian reconciliation.

With this in mind, ten churches in Montreal’s West Island developed an interesting and simple pastoral model for observing the Week of Prayer for Christianity Unity. On one of the Sundays during the Week of Prayer, small groups of visitors attend the prayer service in a neighbouring church of another denomination. A visiting group of any one church numbers from two to four persons, preferably of all ages. They are laypeople, members of the congregation who willingly accept to go and meet another Christian community and worship with them. They participate in the Sunday service of the host church and, during the service, offer a word of greeting from their own congregation and a brief description of their church. They also refer to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the theme chosen for the current year.

To enhance the beauty and meaning of the event, the visitors can bring along some symbolic object that illustrates the theme of the Week of Prayer. For the 2002 theme: "With You Is the Fountain of Life", the visitors brought a small pitcher of water which they poured into a receptacle placed on the altar in a gesture symbolizing our "fountain of life" and our union in baptism. The theme for 2004, "My Peace I give to You", is taken from the gospel of John. The use of a symbol that expresses this peace of Christ will enable the community to make its own this gift of God. During the prayer service, members of the visiting group can be invited to read some of the intercessions (found in the kit for the Week of Prayer published by Novalis). Every church that sends out representatives also receives visitors from other churches. The host priest or pastor welcomes them and indicates the places in the service at which they will be asked to speak. A group from the United Church can visit an Anglican church, Anglicans can visit Catholics, and Catholics can visit a United church. In this way, the number of participating churches is more noticeable.

In the past two years, ten West Island congregations have put this neighbourhood church visits model to good use; both the visiting groups and the host churches have found these exchanges meaningful and enriching. The unity we are seeking is a unity for everyone, for the whole body of Christian communities and not just church hierarchies and theologians. These visits by lay church members attest to the mutual interest and appreciation we have for each other and for the shared worship which unites us in prayer.

You are welcome to use this neighbourhood church visit’s model if it fits your situation. The theme for the January 2004 Week of Prayer, "My Peace I give You" invites us to offer a sign of peace to our neighbours in Christ. Perhaps a friendly visit would be one way of doing this?

For more information on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and for texts illustrating this exchange model, please see our website: www.ecumenism.net/wpcu. If you have other models which you would like to share, please let us know.

Posted: Sept. 30, 2003 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=2163 Transmis : 30 sept. 2003 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=2163

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