SINGAPORE – To prepare for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that fell on Jan 18-25, two talks on Jan 8 and 17 offering the views of a Catholic priest and a Methodist minister respectively were organized by different groups in the Singapore archdiocese, drawing around 100 participants.Father Frans de Ridder gave a talk titled "Christian Unity: Will we ever be united?" held at CANA – The Catholic Centre. The talk focused on the history of the Church’s brokenness and how Christians can realistically move towards unity.

Quoting from a wide variety of sources including the documents from the Second Vatican Council, leaders of other faiths, and anecdotes, Father Frans guided those present away from "using theologies to hit at each other", and to "be like Christ and have God’s presence, to share the same life". In order to achieve this, he suggested turning to the practice of meditation.

"It was very enlightening because Father Frans mentioned different approaches to ecumenism," said Carmelita Leow, 21, President of the Catholic Students’ Society at the National University of Singapore.

"It was an eye-opener," said Cynthia Choo, a full-time pastor with Paya Lebar Methodist Church. "The talk gave a message to stay alert and understand the heart of God. It has been 100 years since the first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity but things are still moving slowly."

Rev Dr Daniel Koh, a full-time faculty member of Trinity Theological College, had been invited by Scheut Missions to give a talk on ecumenism and Christianity from a Methodist viewpoint, at the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Rev Dr Daniel provided insight on the history of relations between Catholics and Methodists, how the Methodist church has been engaging in dialogue with other denominations, how the Methodist church in Singapore has contributed to Christian unity, and the lack of effort on the part of Catholics and other Christians in Singapore to engage in dialogue.

"Hard as I try to look for strong evidence of relations between Methodists and Catholics, I can’t," Rev Dr Daniel said. "One strong reason could be that many local Christians are first-generation Christians formed by para-church organizations. Many of these organizations hold a negative view of the Roman Catholic Church."

"There is now less resistance to ecumenical activities. I see some small sparks of grace," he said. "Perhaps with external pressures from the fast pace of changes in the world, we will come together more often, to give a common response to issues such as those in the life sciences."

"I now have a better understanding of the Methodist view of the Catholic faith," said Steven Tan, 70, from Church of St. Francis of Assisi. "Such events build bridges to connect people of the different denominations." - By Regina Xie

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