The Rev. Kevin Kraglund, rector of St. Patrick’s Anglican Church, welcomed Christians to the Edmonton and District Council of Churches (EDCC) 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Ecumenical Worship Service on Sunday, January 19.
Participating faith communities included the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Synod of Alberta, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, Christian Reformed Church of North America, United and Moravian churches. Members of the Edmonton Ecumenical Taizé Prayer group led the worship music.
“Throughout his early ministry Jesus and his disciples relied upon the kindness of strangers,” said Bishop Jane Alexander, Diocese of Edmonton, reflecting upon the theme: “They showed us unusual kindness,” from Acts 28:2.
Chosen by the Christian churches of Malta and Gozo, the theme recognises the historic shipwreck of Paul on the island of Malta and our call as a Christian community to a greater generosity to those in need.
“Paul and those travelling with him had just spent 14 days on a stormy sea before being shipwrecked. Wet and cold and tired they were blessed with unusual kindness from the people on the island of Malta,” the Bishop said. “The kindness of the Christian community in response to people at their most vulnerable should be extraordinary and exceed any reasonable expectation.”
“This past week we saw something of extraordinary kindness in our response in Edmonton to the families affected by the terrible plane crash in Iran. Suddenly all barriers were down and we were one,” she said.
“And, also this past week we responded to people suffering in the extreme cold, opening our communities as warming stations, offering warm clothing and hot meals; donating to the Food Bank, Bissell Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed, Catholic Social Services and the like. Perhaps you stopped your car and gave a ride to someone waiting at a bus stop. But will our neighbourly kindness extend beyond the immediate danger of frostbite? What will we do to continue to show extraordinary kindness; to ensure, for example, there are more housing options within our community by this time next year? To continue to be hospitable to migrants and refugees who today embark on journeys just as dangerous as those of St. Paul. What does the kindness and unity of our Christian community here in Edmonton look like to continue to welcome, to sponsor and advocate for the refugees?
“Our community must witness together to the outrageous love and care of God’s holy children. And live in ways that no matter what, there is a recognisable and unshakable similarity amongst us in how we treat the poor, in how we reach out to a prisoner, heal the sick, welcome a stranger and in how we use our voices. We cannot rejoice in a blessed life if others are not blessed by ours. We cannot live at the expense of others near or far. It is said that true kindness: Godly kindness, Christ-like kindness, blurs the lines between giving and receiving. This year’s theme issues a very bold call. Let’s commit to make this world a better place than we find it.”
Affirming their commitment to Christian unity in face of the storms of life, faith leaders led the Prayers of the People, bringing forth rowing oars bearing the words Reconciliation, Enlightenment, Hope, Trust, Strength, Hospitality, Conversion and Generosity, and placing them next to a boat before the altar.
The offering collected during the ecumenical service was given in support of the EDCC’s annual No Room in the Inn Campaign which this year will help renovate the SAGE Seniors Safe House helping provide temporary housing and help for men and women over the age of 60 who are leaving abusive situations.