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January 29, 2017

‘We are all people who know the grace of God’

A prayer service celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was held Jan. 23 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in West Lafayette.

A prayer service celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was held Jan. 23 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in West Lafayette.

By Caroline B. Mooney

WEST LAFAYETTE — The fourth annual prayer service celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity drew faithful from more than a dozen area churches together on Jan. 23 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church.

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty joined 16 other faith leaders for the ecumenical prayer service, which had the theme “Reconciliation — The Love of Christ Compels Us” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-20). 

The International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was held Jan. 18-25.

Deacon Jim Rush, diocesan ecumenical officer, has organized the local ecumenical prayer services since his ordination in 2013.

Community faith leaders participating included: retired Father Ambrose Ziegler; Deacon Chuck Jindrich, St. Thomas Aquinas Church; Pastor Chris Danielson, St. Andrew United Methodist Church; Rev. Bradley Pace and Rev. Hilary Cooke, St. John’s Episcopal Church; Rev. Gary Reif, First Baptist Church; Pastors Stephanie and Brandon Smith, Heartland Community Church; Pastor Stacey Littlefield, Evangelical Covenant Church; Pastor Greg Eberhard, First Christian Church; Rev. Nancy Eberhard, director of pastoral care at University Place; Pastor Steve Crain, Lafayette Church of the Brethren; Pastor Linda Dolby, Trinity United Methodist Church; Pastor Lore Blinn Gibson, Grace United Methodist Church; and Rev. Kevin Bowers, Bethany Presbyterian Church.

In his homily, Pastor Littlefield said, “We meet together because of what we have in common. And not only that, but we meet together because we enjoy the ways we are different and we learn from one another’s traditions. And in doing so, I believe we are practicing the reconciling ministry of Christ with one another.

“We come from the same roots and from the same gracious actions of God, every single one of us,” he said. “… The higher and common ground on which we stand is that we were all once lost but now are found.  We are all people who know the grace of God. Because of what Christ has done, because of what the grace and mercy that God has shown us, we are all prodigal daughters and prodigal sons, blessed enough to be loved, honored and welcomed home  whether we deserve it or not. We have been cleansed of our sin and given a new heart.

“We stand on the higher common ground of mission and purpose engaged in our calling to love one another as we love our neighbors, as we love ourselves, and even our enemies. We may differ on a few things, friends, but in the things that matter most there is unity

“We stand on the higher common ground of shared ministry,’ Pastor Littlefield said. “We dwell safely on the high common ground of the work of Christ and the grace of God.  And on our better days, we engage in the high and common work of loving God, loving one another, loving our neighbor and even loving our enemies.

“This season of Epiphany, when we celebrate the appearing of Christ among us, in a divided land, in a divided church, let us all live in the unity that Jesus prayed for, died for and rose again that we might enjoy it,” he said. “So that in the world in which we live, others may see Christ in us, experience the love of God incarnated into their very midst in him through us.”

Scott Eaker, a member of St. Andrew United Methodist, made a meal for all the clergy before the service.  

“I think it’s amazing to grab everyone and bring them together to be a unified group,” he said. “Whether it’s the country that needs healing or to show solidarity in the community, I think this is a great idea.”

Scott Eaker, a member of St. Andrew United Methodist, made a meal for all the clergy before the service.  

“I think it’s amazing to grab everyone and bring them together to be a unified group,” he said. “Whether it’s the country that needs healing or to show solidarity in the community, I think this is a great idea.”

Pastor Danielson said the meal was “glorious. That was one of the highlights for me, to get together with brothers and sisters from other churches in the area.  I met a lot of people I didn’t know before, and had a good time with a lot of good fellowship. And the worship was wonderful.”

“I really like the whole think the unity concept and the strength of that, accepting people for who they are and seeing so many churches represented and those who participated in the service,” said Jan Van Buren, a member of St. Andrew Methodist.

“For everyone of all colors, creeds, customs and cultures, it’s about respect. Not always agreement, but respect,” Father Ziegler said. “Every year, we’re getting more and more people here, and it’s wonderful. “

“It’s a wonderful service, wonderful to get together; we don’t get to do this often enough. I always appreciate Jim’s work. This is a wonderful event. We get too locked into our own echo chambers in church. It’s really nice to be doing this,” Bradley Pace,

Pastor Steve Crain, Lafayette Church of the Brethren is new to the Lafayette area and appreciated the chance to worship with people from all over the area who are devoted to unity in Christ.

“It is heartwarming,” he said. “I am deeply ecumenical myself, so this fed my soul. “

A collection was taken during the service for the Lafayette Urban Ministry Emergency Shelter for the Homeless.

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