One look at the news and it is enough to dash our hopes for unification among Christian faiths, let alone a united humanity. A Prayer Service for Christian Unity at San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park on Jan. 23 set out to take one step toward defying the odds.
Together with Bishop John Noonan were clergy from various ecumenical faiths: Father John Hamatie, pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Episcopal Bishop Reverend Gregory Brewer, Father William “Doc” Holiday of the Incarnation Catholic Church of the Anglican Rite, retired pastor Dr. Joel Hunter of Northland Church and Reverend Dr. Robert Spooney of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Director of Ecumenism for the Diocese of Orlando, Father Martin Nguyen noted that, “This particular prayer service is a part of the Jubilee celebration for the Diocese of Orlando. The Bishop chose the Scriptural verse from the Gospel of Luke, ‘Stay with us, Lord’ (Lk 24:29). The Lord is the one who unites and brings us together.” He added, “As said in Bishop’s invitation, ‘Amid a world torn apart by so much division and dissention, I firmly believe our witness of unity serves as a shining beacon that brings hope to our people.’ More than anything, the fact that leaders from different Christian traditions coming together to pray is a powerful witness.”
That powerful witness was shared by Father Steven Pavignano, OFM, parochial vicar at St. Joseph and St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish in Orlando who related the story of St. Francis of Assisi’s call to rebuild God’s church. “I pray that we, who saliently represent the vision of Christ’s church, work together to start healing those traditions…” Inspired by these words, Rev. Spooney added, “We need to talk earnestly about what we can do as a group of Christians, to keep us mainstream on true Christian principals, motivated by the word of God.”
Father Holiday agreed. “This is a subject near and dear to my community… For more than five years they went through some very trying and sad times where they lost a lot of friends who left because they couldn’t come to grips with the necessity of visible unity in the Church. Now that we are in visible unity, there is an objective manifestation of what can come of meetings like this.”
“The ecumenical goal of the Catholic Church has always been carried out in fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer to the Father: ‘Ut unum sint’ – Let them be one,” Father Nguyen said. “On a human level, so often, we let ourselves stay focused on what separates us, what distinguishes us from others. While each Christian tradition is unique in its own practice, we share so much richness in the one faith in Jesus Christ.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – January 24, 2018