Christian Traditions 003: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Von Trapp Follow-Along: Maria makes no mention of this octave.

INTRODUCTION:

There are two special occurrences on January 18 (tomorrow): the Feast of the Confession of Peter and the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Because they both fall on the same day and because I don’t think people would want to read a really long blog post about both, I split it into two posts. The first, about the Feast of the Confession of Peter, I published yesterday. The second, about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I’m publishing today.

Because there are eight days in this event, the activities section of this post is very long. But don’t worry, the majority of this admittedly very long post is just activities for every day of the event. Skip to the very end for the Knit and Crochet Activities.

18-25 January 2015WHEN IS IT?

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is held from 18 January through 25 January every year, regardless of the days of the week on which the dates fall. This commemoration is an octave, meaning it’s a “weeklong” event that actually lasts eight days. In fact, it was initially known as the Octave of Christian Unity. It was specifically set to begin on the Feast of the Confession of Peter (also called the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter) and end on the Feast of the Conversion of Paul. For this reason, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was also briefly known as the Chair of Unity Octave. In the Southern Hemisphere, January is summer and so vacation time. Because of this, churches have to be very creative in their scheduling of the week of prayer. In some cases, it is scheduled around Pentecost because this event, which takes place in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, is also symbolic of unity for the church. Nevertheless, most Christian groups which observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity do so on the official dates of 18 January through 25 January.

woman at the wellWHAT IS IT?

The “Octave of Christian Unity” was proposed by Father Paul Wattson of the Graymoor Franciscan Friars (a convert from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism) and first adopted in 1908. The idea was blessed by Pope Pius X and encouraged by Benedict XV.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an octave (see above) with a focus on prayer for church unity. Briefly, Wattson renamed it the “Chair of Unity Octave” in order to emphasize the relationship between Christian unity and the papacy (office of the pope). In other words, it focused on the concept that Christian unity can only be achieved through the pope.

In 1935, Abbé Paul Couturier, the father of spiritual ecumenism, suggested that the prayer should focus on unity in accordance with Christ’s will and with the means He wills, rather than on the papacy, so as to allow and encourage the participation of Christians from every non-Catholic denomination—that is, denominations of Christianity that hold differing views about the papacy. This fits with Jesus’ prayer that His disciples “be one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). Couturier further proposed changing the name to the “Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” The Catholic Church finally accepted this proposal over 30 years later, in 1966. Nevertheless, by 1948, other churches of various denominations around the world had already begun to recognize and practice the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In 1958, a French Catholic group called Unité Chrétienne and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) began jointly preparing materials for the Week of Prayer. In 1968, the materials prepared jointly by the Faith and Order Commission and a group representing the entire Catholic Church called the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were officially used for the first time. These materials are still jointly produced every year by the Pontifical Council and the WCC through the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order. Every year, the text is written to focus on a theme and is combed carefully afterward by both organizations to ensure the text can be prayed by Christians across the world. The materials are actually prepared well ahead of time; in fact, the materials for 2015 were completed in September 2012. It is published by the Commission on Faith and Order in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German, though churches around the world are encouraged to translate and adapt it for their own use.

calendarLOOKING AHEAD

As mentioned above, another Christian event associated with and symbolic of Christian unity is Pentecost. This year, Pentecost will fall on May 24 (Sunday).

STANDARD ACTIVITIES

The English version of the Commission on Faith and Order’s text mentioned above, “Resources for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and Throughout the Year” (forthwith referred to simply as “Resources”), is available in pdf format here. This year’s text was also co-authored by the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil. The introduction at the link above explains: “The biblical gesture of offering water to whomever arrives, as a way of welcoming and sharing, is something that is repeated in all regions of Brazil. The proposed study and meditation on the story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at the well is to help people and communities to realize the dialogical dimension of the project of Jesus, which we call the Kingdom of God.” (Honestly, I’ve read that last sentence about a million times and I still don’t know what it means. Any ideas?)

This year’s theme is John 4:7—“Jesus said to her: ‘Give me to drink.’ ”

The “Resources” text provides instructions on both the church service commemorating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and individual study and prayer for each of the eight days of the octave. The church service instructions may be omitted, adapted for individual use, or utilized in a group setting, such as your family, your Sunday School or Bible Study group, or even a classroom where appropriate. I’ve divided and adapted the instructions below. Technically, everything is optional, but I got tired of putting “Optional” at the beginning of every instruction, so please understand I intend for you to adapt it to your preferences and belief system, as the original authors also intended. Recall that the purpose of this whole octave and the “Resources” is to promote Christian unity, not to divide by creating an instructional booklet that only a few groups of Christians can actually use, so it has always been understood that each Christian and each church or denomination will adapt it as necessary.

CHURCH SERVICE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Scripture Reading. Read John 4:1-42. This passage tells the story of Jesus’ request for water from the Samaritan woman at the well. This passage is the foundation of this year’s theme. The passage is copied word-for-word in “Resources” (pp. 3-4), or you may read it from your own Bible.
  • Lesson Reading. Read the introduction in “Resources” (pp. 5-8) explaining the choice of John 4:7 as the theme. Alternatively, you may read the abbreviated explanation I wrote (see Footnote 2).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. “Jesus deliberately chose to cross Samaria on his way to Judea in Galilee. His route passed by the well of the Samaritan woman who came there to draw water. [… You can] use these two symbols of the route and water as images of the visible Christian unity for which we pray.” (“Resources,” p. 10) Answer the following questions:
    • “Which is the path of unity, the route we should take, so that the world may drink from the source of life, Jesus Christ?”
    • “Which is the path of unity that gives proper respect to our diversity?” (From “Resources,” p. 10.)
  • Prayer/Responsive Reading. If you have children or a small group (e.g., Sunday School or Bible Study group, or a very small church), read aloud the following responsive reading. Alternatively, use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1) for today. (C = Celebrant; L = Lectern; A = All. In churches I’ve attended, we don’t have C or L. I don’t even know what they are. If you’re in a similar boat or in a family or small group, consider for families having each parent read one part and the parents and kids together read A parts, or for small groups having each leader or each member read one part and the whole group together read A parts.)
    • L: “Almighty God, breathe into us the wind of unity that recognizes our diversity,”
    • A: “Breathe into us tolerance that welcomes and makes us community,”
    • L: “Breathe into us fire that unites what is torn apart and heals what is ill,”
    • A: “Breathe into us grace that overcomes hatred and frees us from violence,”
    • L: “Breathe into us life that faces down and defeats death,”
    • A: “Blessed be the God of mercy, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and makes all things new. Amen!” (From “Resources,” p. 14.)
  • Prayer/Responsive Reading. If you have children or a small group, read aloud the following responsive reading. Alternatively, use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1) for today. (See notes above.)
    • C: “In humility, as children of God and sisters and brothers in Christ, we receive God’s mercy and respond to God’s call to make new all relationships.”
    • L: “Merciful Lord, your Spirit hovered over the waters where diversity sprouted and flourished. We confess our difficulty to live with legitimate differences. Forgive us those attitudes of mind, words and actions that do violence to unity in diversity.”
    • A: “O Lord, have mercy upon us…”
    • L: “Merciful Christ, grace and joy of the multitude, listener and teacher, you give birth to new visions of hope and heal the wounds of mind and body. We confess that we have failed to listen to voices different from our own, failed to say words that bring healing and hope, and we have perpetuated exclusive attitudes to those who cry out for solidarity and fellowship.”
    • A: “O Lord, have mercy upon us…”
    • L: “Merciful Lord, you are the source of all creation, the Eternal and life-giving Word. We confess that we do not listen to your creation that groans and cries out for liberation and renewal. Help us to walk together and to hear your voice in all living things that suffer and yearn for healing and care.”
    • C: “O God, fountain of mercy and grace, pour over us your pardon. May your love transform us into a source of living waters to restore the strength of your people. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.”
    • A: “Amen.” (From “Resources,” pp. 14-15.)
  • Prayer/Responsive Reading. If you have children or a small group, read aloud the following responsive reading. Alternatively, use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1) for today. (See notes above.)
    • L: God of eternal compassion, as individuals and as community, we ask for light, so we may become more welcoming and understanding towards others and reduce the suffering in our world.
    • A: Hear us, God of love! Hear this our cry!
    • L: God of eternal compassion, teach your children that charity, hospitality and unity are expressions of your revelation and will for humanity.
    • A: Hear us, God of love! Hear this our cry!
    • L: God of eternal compassion, we beseech you, grant us peace; teach us and guide us to be builders of a tolerant and non-violent world.
    • A: Hear us, God of love! Hear this our cry!
    • L: God of eternal compassion, who spoke to us through creation, then through the prophets and then through your Son Jesus Christ, grant us wisdom to listen to your voice that calls us to unity in our diversity.
    • A: Hear us, God of love! Hear this our cry!
    • L: God of eternal compassion, in the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord who as a stranger asked for a drink from a Samaritan woman, give us living water, springing up unto eternal life.
    • A: Hear us, God of love! Hear this our cry! (From “Resources,” p. 18.)
  • If you have children or a small group, read aloud the following prayer (all together, in parts, or the parent/leader alone). Alternatively, use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1) for today.
    • “We learn from Jesus to offer our lives as a sign of love and compassion. God, may we become living offerings dedicated to the ministry of your Word and grace. God, who are with us and walk in our midst, grant us this day the grace of your light and Spirit so that we may continue our mission and remain faithful to welcoming and listening to all, even those who are different from ourselves. Take away the violence that is in our hearts and the discriminating attitudes that exclude and devalue the human dignity of others. Enable our churches to be welcoming spaces where feast and forgiveness, joy and tenderness, strength and faith become our daily practice, our daily food, our daily movement forward in Jesus Christ. Amen.” (From “Resources,” p. 19.)
  • Blessing/Benediction. If you have children or a small group, read aloud the following blessing (all together, in parts, or the parent/leader alone). Alternatively, use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1) for today.
    • “May the Lord God, / bless you and protect you / fill your heart with tenderness and your soul with joy, / your ears with music and your nostrils with perfume, / your tongue with song giving face to hope.
    • “May Jesus Christ the living water be / behind you to protect you, / before you to guide you, / by your side to accompany you, / within you to console you, / above you to bless you.
    • “May the life-giving Spirit / breathe into you that your thoughts may be holy, / act in you so that your work is holy, / draw your heart so that you love what is holy, / strengthen you that you will defend what is holy. / May [H]e make [H]is home in your heart, / water its dryness, and melt its coldness, / kindle in your innermost soul the fire of [H]is love / and bestow upon you a true faith, and firm hope, and a sincere and perfect love.
    • “Amen.” (From “Resources,” pp. 19-20.)
  • Final Prayer. If you have children or a small group, read aloud (the leader alone or the group together) the following final prayer. Alternatively, use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1) for today.
    • “May God, who teaches us to welcome each other and calls us to practice hospitality, grant us peace and serenity as we move forward on the path of Christian Unity. As we go in the peace of Christ let us share with each other the sign of peace.” (From “Resources,” p. 20.)

INDIVIDUAL INSTRUCTIONS

Day 1, 18 January 2015, Sunday: Proclamation: “It is necessary to go through Samaria” (John 4:4)

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • Genesis 24:10-33
    • Psalm 42
    • II Corinthians 8:1-7
    • John 4:1-4
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 1 (pp. 21-22).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “What does it mean for me and my community of faith ‘to have to go through Samaria’?”
    • “What are the steps that my church has made to meet other churches and what have the churches learned from each other?” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 22.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1).
    • “God of all peoples, / teach us to go through Samaria / to meet our brothers and sisters from other churches. / Allow us to go there with an open heart / so we may learn from every church and culture. / We confess that You are the source of unity. / Grant us the unity that Christ wills for us. / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 22.)

Day 2, 19 January 2015, Monday: Denunciation I: “Tired of the journey, Jesus sat down facing the well” (John 4:6)

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • Genesis 29:1-14
    • Psalm 137
    • I Corinthians 1:10-18
    • John 4:5-6
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 2 (pp. 22-23).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “What are the main reasons for competition among our churches?”
    • “Are we able to identify a common ‘well’ upon which we can lean, and rest from our disputes and competitions?” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 23.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1).
    • “Gracious God, / Often our churches are led to choose the logic of competition. / Forgive our sin of presumption. / We are weary from this need to be first. Allow us to rest at the well. / Refresh us with the water of unity drawn from our common prayer. / May Your Spirit who hovered over the waters of chaos / bring unity from our diversity. / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 22.)

Day 3, 20 January 2015, Tuesday: Denunciation II: “I have no husband” (John 4:17)

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • II Kings 17:24-34
    • Psalm 139:1-12
    • Romans 7:1-4
    • John 4:16-19
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 3 (pp. 23-24).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “What are the sinful structures that we can identify in our own communities?”
    • “What is the place and the role of women in our churches?”
    • “What can our churches do to prevent violence and to overcome violence directed against women and girls?” (From “Resources,” p. 24.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1).
    • “O You who are beyond all things, / how could we call You by any other name? / What song could be sung for You? / No word can express You. / What Spirit can perceive You? / No intelligence can comprehend You. / You alone are inexpressible; / all that is said has come from You. / You alone are unknowable; / all that is thought has come from you. / All creatures proclaim you, / those who speak and those who are dumb. / Every one desires You, everyone sighs and aspires after You. / All that exists prays to You, / and every being that can contemplate Your universe raises to You a silent hymn. / Have pity on us, You who are beyond all things. / How could we call You by any other name? / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 22.)

Day 4, 21 January 2015, Wednesday: Renunciation: “Then the woman left her water jar” (John 4:28)

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • Genesis 11:31-12:4
    • Psalm 23
    • Acts 10:9-20
    • John 4:25-28
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 4 (p. 25).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “Meeting Jesus demands that we leave behind our water jars. What are those water jars for us?”
    • “What are the main difficulties that prevent us from doing so?” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 25.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1).
    • “Loving God, / help us to learn from Jesus and the Samaritan / that the encounter with the other opens for us new horizons of grace. / Help us to break through our limits and embrace new challenges. / Help us to go beyond fear in following the call of Your Son. / In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 25.)

Day 5, 22 January 2015, Thursday

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • Genesis 46:1-7
    • Psalm 133
    • Acts 2:1-11
    • John 4:7-15
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 5 (pp. 26-27).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “Do you remember situations in which your church has helped another church or has been helped by another church?”
    • “Are there reservations on the part of your church to accepting help from another church? How can these reservations be overcome?” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 26.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1).
    • “God, spring of the Living water, / help us to understand that the more we join together the pieces of our ropes, / the more deeply our buckets reach into Your divine waters! / Awaken us to the truth that the gifts of the other / are an expression of Your unfathomable mystery. / And make us sit at the well together / to drink from Your water / which gathers us in unity and peace. / We ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, / Who asked the Samaritan woman to give Him water for His thirst. / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” pp. 26-27.)

Day 6, 23 January 2015, Friday: Testimony: “Jesus said: ‘The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ ” (John 4:14)

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • Exodus 2:15-22
    • Psalm 91
    • I John 4:16-21
    • John 4:11-15
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 6 (pp. 27-28).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “How do you interpret Jesus’ words that through him we may become ‘a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:14)?”
    • “Where do you see Christian people being springs of living water for you and for others?”
    • “Which are the situations in public life to which the churches should speak with a single voice in order to be springs of living water?” (From “Resources,” p. 27.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1).
    • “Triune God, / following the example of Jesus, / make us witnesses to Your love. / Grant us to become instruments of justice, peace and solidarity. / May Your Spirit move us towards concrete actions that lead to unity. / May walls be transformed into bridges. / This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 28.)

Day 7, 24 January 2015, Saturday: Testimony: “Give me to drink” (John 4:7)

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • Numbers 20:1-11
    • Psalm 119:10-20
    • Romans 15:2-7
    • John 4:7-15
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 7 (pp. 29-30).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “How has your understanding and experience of God been enriched by encounters with other Christians?
    • “What can Christian communities learn from indigenous wisdom and other religious traditions in your region?” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 29.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer (see Footnote 1).
    • “God of life, Who cares for all creation, and calls us to justice and peace, / may our security not come from arms, but from respect. / May our force not be of violence, but of love. / May our wealth not be in money, but in sharing. / May our path not be of ambition, but of justice. / May our victory not be from vengeance, but in forgiveness. / May our unity not be in the quest of power, / but in vulnerable witness to do Your will. / Open and confident, may we defend the dignity of all creation, / sharing, today and forever, the bread of solidarity, justice and peace. / This we ask in the name of Jesus, Your holy Son, our Brother, / Who, as victim of our violence, even from the heights of the cross, / gave forgiveness to us all. / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 30.)

Day 8, 25 January 2015, Sunday: Witness: “Many believed because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39)

  • Scripture Reading. Read the following passages.
    • Exodus 3:13-15
    • Psalm 30
    • Romans 10:14-17
    • John 4:27-30, 39-40
  • Lesson Reading. Read the lesson provided in “Resources” for Day 8 (pp. 30-31).
  • Reflection/Study Questions. Answer the following questions.
    • “What is the relationship between unity and mission?”
    • “Do you know people in your community whose life story is a witness to unity?” (From “Resources,” p. 31.)
  • Prayer. Pray the following prayer or use it as a guide for your own prayer*.
    • “God, spring of living water, / Make of us witnesses of unity through both our words and our lives. / Help us to understand that we are not the owners of the well, / And give us the wisdom to welcome the same grace in one another. / Transform our hearts and our lives / So that we might be genuine bearers of the Good News. / And lead us always to the encounter with the other, / As an encounter with You. / We ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, / In the unity of the Holy Spirit. / Amen.” (Adapted from “Resources,” p. 31.)

cross of unityKNITTING AND CROCHET ACTIVITIES

The knit/crochet activity involves creating two rings looped together, and then creating a cross to stitch into the connecting loop, thus symbolizing how different groups of Christians are unified in Christ.

  • Knitting Patterns: “Cross of Unity” by Schaabling Shire Shoppe (here). (Note: Again, I couldn’t find the exact sort of pattern I was looking for, so I had to make one. Hope you enjoy!)
  • Crochet Patterns: “Crochet Christmas Sphere #1” by Edgar Gonzales (Garo) (here). (Note: create two rings minus the ornament topper for this activity) and “Christian Cross” by Suzanne Alise” (here). Note: I found information on the size of the cross, which measures 4” x 6.25” when finished, so much larger than I intended since all ornaments should be approximately 3” at the largest measurement (length/width/diameter), so you may have to adjust the number of stitches to get the appropriate size. Furthermore, I could not find any information on the size of the rings, so I don’t know whether they complement the cross. Let me know if you find better patterns by commenting below.)

 

じゃあまたね!

 

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: On Prayer. Some groups of Christians recite memorized prayers. Others point to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:7 (“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”) as indicating that we should pray with purpose rather than with memorized or repetitious words. (They also point out that two verses later, when Jesus introduces the Lord’s Prayer, He says, “After this manner therefore pray…” rather than “With these exact words therefore pray…”) If you are of a group that uses memorized or set or written prayers, do so in this case. If you are of a group that chooses to “pray with purpose,” use these written prayers as a guide as to content for your own prayer.

Footnote 2: Abbreviated Introduction. God in human form as Christ asks the Samaritan woman for water (John 4:7); simultaneously, God comes to us and offers us living water (John 4:14).

“The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman invites us to try water from a different well and also to offer a little of our own. In diversity, we enrich each other. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a privileged moment for prayer, encounter and dialogue. It is an opportunity to recognize the richness and value that are present in the other, the different, and to ask God for the gift of unity.”

The Biblical gesture of offering water to whomever comes along is a way of welcoming and sharing. The text of John 4:1-42 demonstrates the importance of understanding your own identity so as not to feel threatened by another’s unique identity and to be capable of recognizing how the other’s uniqueness complements your own: “alone, a person or culture is not enough!” Jesus’ words “give Me to drink” symbolizes complementarity in that drinking “from someone else’s well is the first step towards experiencing another’s way of being. This leads to an exchange of gifts that enriches. Where the gifts of the other are refused much damage is done to society and to the Church.” In other words, sharing the experiences of someone who differs from us enriches our own experience; “persons, communities, cultures, religions and ethnicities need each other.”

The phrase “give Me to drink” also “implies an ethical action that recognises the need for one another in living out the Church’s mission. It compels us to change our attitude, to commit ourselves to seek unity in the midst of our diversity, through our openness to a variety of forms of prayer and Christian spirituality.”

The introduction goes on to describe the religious context in Brazil. It explains how Brazil was once known as a country where relations between people of various social and ethnic backgrounds met with cordiality. However, in spite of the high number of people (86.8% of the population) claiming to be Christian, growing intolerance had led to high levels of violence against certain minorities and vulnerable groups.

The introduction concludes with a description of “the journey”: “The journey we are proposing for the coming eight days starts with proclamation, which leads to denunciation, renunciation, and witness. The week starts with the proclamation of a God who has created us in his own image, that is the image of the Triune God, unity in diversity. Diversity is part of God’s design. Next, some situations of sin which introduce unjust discrimination are denounced. Thirdly, the renunciation of those sinful attitudes which exclude marks a step towards the unity of God’s Kingdom. Lastly, we bear witness to the graciousness of God who is always willing to welcome us despite our imperfection, and whose Holy Spirit impels us towards reconciliation and unity. [….]”

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