Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sudbury churches celebrate unity; 'It's a sign of hope in a broke world' (comment on this story)

Pianist Jordan Stopciati, of St. Patrick's parish, accompanies the four choirs from St. Mark's United, St. James Anglican, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox and St. Patrick's Roman Catholic churches at the Christian unity dinner on Sunday night.
Gino Donato/ the sudbury star

Posted By Rachel Punch

Members of the Roman Catholic, United, Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches in the south end gathered together to share a meal on Sunday in the name of unity.

"It's a sign of hope in a broke world," Rev. Jim Hutton, of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, said about the event.

"It's a witness to the desire that people have to somehow be one with each other."

It was the second year the Christian Unity Dinner was held. This year, it was held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on Ester Road.

About 230 members and clergy from South End churches - St. Mark's United Church, St. James Anglican Church, St. Nicholas and St. Patrick's - gathered for the dinner.

"It's an event that was dreamed up last year as a way to promote Christian Unity Week," Hutton said. "This particular year was the 100th anniversary of that effort for Christians to come together and pray about trying to be one."

Christian Unity Week, on Jan. 18-25, began in 1908 in New York when the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement held the first Church Unity Octave.

The week of prayer encourages Christians of all denominations to meet, participate in liturgical and other community activities and pray together that all may be one.

Before the dinner, Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe told the crowd he thought it was "a wonderful occasion."

He said all of the churches at the national level have been involved for a number of years in dialogue. He is also involved in dialogue with the Greek Orthodox church leaders, whom he meets with once a year.

He said he can go back to those meetings this year and tell them the people of Sudbury can really come together.

"This is a wonderful way of doing this, coming together in Christ," Plouffe said.

Rev. John Mathew, minister at St. Mark's United Church, said there is a lot of room for church leaders and members to forget about their differences.

"In this secular age ... we need to work together," he said. "To come together once a year is the least we can do."

He said church members do work on some projects together, such as work with the poor.

"Sometimes we wait for a crisis to happen (to come together)," Mathew said.

Hutton belongs to a group called Sudbury Ministerial, a small group of church leaders who gather regularly for prayer and to share a meal. This has also helped bridge gaps between the churches.

For example, the group recently had an ecumenical service at the Salvation Army Church, which focused on the Sudbury Hospice.

The annual dinner is another way to encourage unity.

"It's kind of an encouragement to bring people together, not just once a year," Hutton said.

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