Christians came together during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for the service that was led by representatives from the Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Mar Thoma, Orthodox Christian, Salvation Army and Roman Catholic faith traditions.The representatives took turns to preside over different parts of the service, which included hymns, readings, intercessions and a sermon based on John 17:6-21, in which Jesus prayed for all Christians to be one.
"We declare one Lord, one faith, one baptism," proclaimed Rev Malcolm Tan, pastor-in-charge of Barker Road Methodist Church. "Ecumenism and mission cannot be separated," he said. "We should not think that we can promote one without the other."
Besides reciting the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer together, participants were also encouraged to move around to exchange the sign of peace during the service.
"It was different from Mass," said Jerome Leon, a Jesuit novice, "though there were moments which were common, like the Creed and the readings".
Another Jesuit novice from East Timor, Sylvester De Jesus said, "The service was very good. You can’t find this in other countries like East Timor where it’s 99 percent Catholic."
"It was really non-denominational," said Mildred Ong, a member of the Barker Road Methodist Church. She had attended the service with her friend Margaret Loong from the Church of St. Ignatius, who observed that the attention of the participants was on the service, not the divisions between the different denominations.
"I think we should have more of such events over the year," said Father John-Paul Tan, OFM, parish priest of Church of St. Mary of the Angels, adding that he might have plans for his parish to be more involved in ecumenical activities.
The event was organized by the Committee for Ecumenical Movement (CEM) of the Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue (IRED), a council started by Archbishop Nicholas Chia in response to the exhortations of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to further relations with people of other faith traditions.
The CEM had collaborated with the different Christian representatives for the first of two prayer services. The second was held at the Church of the Risen Christ in Toa Payoh on Wednesday Jan 23.
Since 1968, such prayer services have been conducted annually worldwide during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has been commemorated since 1907.
"We wanted to have the services in different areas of Singapore so that more people could attend them," said Sister Elisabeth Lim, RGS, who was part of the CEM and had coordinated the event with others including Therese Huang from Church of St. Ignatius and Sister Susan, FMDM.
Sister Elizabeth noted that there were already groups in the archdiocese involved in ecumenism, such as the Taize prayer group and Christian meditation groups, which encourage Christians, and even Muslims and Buddhists, to come together to meditate.
"CEM will look at suggestions on how ecumenical dialogue can be continued. We will also be on the lookout for people who are interested in helping us bring greater awareness of the ecumenical movement amongst Christians," Sister Elizabeth said.
Those interested to find out more about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity can visit its 2008 website athttp://www.weekofprayer2008.org/index.html. - By Regina Xie