Parishioners from local churches gather for Christian unity
Patricia Martin, member of St. Matthew’s UCC, places the oar of generosity on the wooden canoe during Thursday’s Ecumenical Celebration of Christian Unity at Our Lady Queen of Peace. Bill Campbell, member of Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church, led the prayers of the people as eight oars were placed on the canoe. A time of silent prayer occurred after each oar was placed. See a photo gallery at tnonline.com. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A canoe cut from a piece of wood with pegs protruding and the words “Christian Unity” sat on the stage near the pulpit as 35 people representing nine local churches gathered Thursday morning at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Brodheadsville.
It was time for the annual “Ecumenical Celebration of Christian Unity,” and the canoe built by Deacon Bob O’Connor had a significant meaning. Its use occurred later in the service.
“We have something in common, our belief in Jesus Christ,” said Father Michael Quinnan, Our Lady Queen of Peace, as he welcomed the attendees. “The is a beautiful program and a lot of people put in the hard work.”
This worship was a collaboration by Quinnan, Pastor Suzanne Brooks-Cope of St. Matthew’s UCC, Pastor Deborah Scheffey of Salem-St. Paul Lutheran Church, six other churches and Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network’s leadership. Each had a different role throughout the service.
Jan. 18-25 is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an international ecumenical observation lasting eight days.
The 2020 theme is “They showed us unusual kindness” and it comes from Acts 28:2.
The Bible verse states: “The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.”
The island referred to is Malta, located in the Mediterranean Sea and south of Sicily.
This year’s program was put together by churches in Malta and others around the world can tweak it as necessary for their own use, Brooks-Cope said.
She said Malta was a crossroads for civilizations and Christianity.
“Paul was a prisoner on the ship with other prisoners on the way to Rome. He encouraged them to turn around and avoid the storm. No one listened to him,” Scheffey said in her sermon.
The islanders blessed Paul and the others with courage and hospitality so they could continue to spread God’s love, she said.
Paul and the others introduced the islanders to Christianity.
“We have all been shipwrecked and need someone to show us unusual kindness,” said Tom Campbell, president of PVEN, during his Minute for Mission.
PVEN is a community of volunteers who provide clothing, food, office space for women’s resources, camaraderie and friendship.
“Please tell a friend about us that is too proud to ask for help. Or tell a friend who has resources to share to reach out,” he said.
In 2019, PVEN distributed about 380,000 pounds of food and over 25,000 articles of clothing.
“We cannot face the storms of life alone. A boat moves forward when we all row together. In the face of difficulties, we recognize the need to pull together and to unite our efforts,” said Bill Campbell, member of Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church and a PVEN volunteer, as he led the prayers of the people.
As he did so, eight oar carriers brought their oars one by one and placed on the canoe’s pegs.
Each oar bears a single word — reconciliation, guidance, hope, trust, strength, hospitality healing and generosity. A moment of silence followed each oar placement.
O’Connor said it took him about three hours to cut and paint the canoe and cut out the oars. He bought an oar to use as a template. He has been the deacon at Our Lady Queen of Peace for 15 years and a member since 1992.
The service included three hymns played by Our Lady Queen of Peace organist Lindsey Blundetto and sung by the attendees, Scripture readings, prayer and an offering for the ministry of PVEN.
“I think this service is awesome. It’s such a blessing to be able to come together for unity and provide outreach to our community,” said Bill Campbell.
The congregation was invited to a luncheon provided by Our Lady Queen of Peace in their social hall afterward.
The event ended with a meeting of the pastors from the West End community and PVEN leaders to discuss the needs of the community.
For more information about Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020 and the liturgy used in the service, see https://geii.org.