Christian unity has certainly come a long way in Singapore.
It started from humble beginnings back in 1990 when the first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service was initiated by the late Jesuit Father John Wood at the Church of St Ignatius. Today, a passionate community of Christian leaders continue to foster ecumenical relations.
Along this journey, many friendships have been built between the various Christian leaders and representatives. Whether at informal gatherings or official ecumenical events, Monsignor Philip Heng, Vicar General (Ecumenical Relations) believes such get-togethers can only “lead to the growth in mutual respect of each other’s denominations with the building of unity in diversity”. Without such a bond, “the theological exchange would not be effective,” he said.
Msgr Heng added that such gatherings have resulted in an increase in the participation of Christian leaders at the annual Archdiocesan Interreligious Christmas celebration where representatives of different religions come together.
“This trend is very encouraging and I believe is the fruits of our ecumenical friendships,” he said.
Over the years, the Christian unity service has included the recitation of the Nicene Creed and the Our Father prayer. The sign of peace was also introduced to further emphasise a oneness among all Christians.
Held annually from Jan 18-25, the services this year were spread across four days at different churches. They were organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Ecumenical Dialogue and host churches.
On Jan 18 at the St Thomas Orthodox Syrian Cathedral at Yio Chu Kang Road, Rev Aniyan K. Paul, from the CSI Immanuel Congregation, reflected on the theme for the services this year, “Justice, only justice, you shall pursue”.
He said all Christians “need to work together to be the face of Christ’s love and mercy to the marginalised … Together, we can accomplish more.”
The service at the Covenant Community Methodist Church at Blackmore Drive on Jan 22 saw representatives from various Church communities praying for a greater unity.
In his sermon, host pastor Rev Malcolm Tan highlighted the ways that Christians are actually united.
“We are … united in the [Gospel] message for we all declare Good News. We are also united in our mission because we do have a calling to the poor, to prisoners, the blind and the oppressed,” he said.
At The Salvation Army Bishan Chinese Corps on Jan 23, Captain Leonard Heng, resident pastor, shared a story of how he had met a homeless man who lost his job, home and family because of alcoholism. The Salvation Army opened their doors to the man and he was able to rediscover a lost part of himself.
Jesus’ mission was to preach the Gospel to the poor, to restore sight to the blind and to uplift the downtrodden. In this modern day, we need to adopt this same mission for ourselves, said Captain Heng. Participants then made a pledge, through commitment cards, to fight for those who have no voice.
The last service was held on June 25 at the Church of St Vincent de Paul. Father John Joseph Fenelon stressed the importance of “bringing the love of God to those suffering hardships and injustice”.
He said mission, outreach work and charity were the key areas in which the Christian community could showcase the face of God.
Reporters: Christopher Khoo, Cindy Lim and Jared Ng.