This year, on Monday, 23rd Jan. a Service of Prayer for Christian Unity was held in Mount Carmel Chapel, Loughrea for the 5th year running. The prayer service was compiled in Germany, where many Christians were commemorating the anniversary of the Reformation. As our Bishop, John Kirby was in Rome, the service was led by Fr. Willie Moran, Prior of Carmelite Abbey, Fr. Raymond Sweeney P.P. and Rev. Salter Sterling, a Church of Ireland Theologian. It was great to see Chapel was full at the beginning.
The Service began with a lovely hymn, expressing our joy in having so good a God and our delight in praising Him. The Prayer Service was extremely well thought out and of immediate relevance to our world today. It is an accepted theological fact that the more we love God, the more we grow in love for each other but paradoxically this does not always come about. On the contrary, both History and our own experience tell us that instead of growing daily in love of God and of our neighbour, we actually create walls of division in one way or another. The end result is often a cause for amazement when we see the myriad ways by which we cause division and consequently grow apart from each other and ultimately from God.
A symbolic wall was built in our sanctuary and twelve causes of division were chosen from the countless ones there are. These were highlighted by twelve people, coming forward in turn to physically lay a brick and then to explain the exact meaning of this particular brick of division. It was possible to enter into this huge statement of a very sad fact and in one’s heart to ask pardon for our part in it while also including others who might not realise the harm they do. So at this most appropriate moment a sign of peace was exchanged after which we prayed together for god Himself to bless us with new hearts and new spirits, empowering us to walk in God’s ways and loving God’s commandments. All of this was further emphasised in the Scripture readings which followed and so well read by Claire. God has in fact broken down all the walls that we put up, making peace by His death on the cross. The Gospel reading of the Prodigal son was powerfully read by Rev. Salter Sterling and this was followed by his most inspiring sermon. One would need to be there to actually appreciate its worth. Next the Creed was prayed by one and all.
Then it was time to dismantle silently the symbolic wall while all sang those precious words:
He is Lord
He is risen from the dead and He is Lord.
The very bricks which had been used to build the wall were now used to form a cross. Christ saved us by means of a cross so the cross is now our way back to God. Then four intercessory prayers followed. In a sense they were a summing up of service thus far but with the added dimension of being a powerful plea to God, the source of all our good, to effect in us that truly Christian spirit which transforms in to the likeness of Christ all those who desire it. The four intercessors lit a candle from the Paschal candle and they in turn spread this to everybody in the Assembly. We were exhorted to bring our light into the dark places of our world so that Christ in us might continue His work of reconciliation. Then the final blessing but it was followed by a welcome cup of tea and eats in the nearby parlour. It was a happy ending for all the participants and we hope and believe we have helped in some small way to further the great cause of Christian Unity.