Diocesan News

Bishop Sanchez Leads Christian Unity Prayers

Bishop Paul Sanchez
During the annual prayer service for Christian unity hosted by the Ecumenical Association of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, Bishop Paul Sanchez is flanked by Rev. Henry Furey, president of the Ecumenical Clergy Association on the left, and by Father Ernest Falardeau, S.S.J., from the Archdiocese of New York, who has worked to promote ecumenical unity for 25 years. (Photos by Antonina Zielinska)

Continuing their annual tradition, the Ecumenical Association of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood organized a prayer service in honor of the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Glendale Maspeth United Methodist Church hosted the service and Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez was the keynote speaker. The service was comprised of readings from the Bible and hymns of praise and unity.

“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord,” the Christians of southern Queens sang at the service. “She is His new creation by water and the Word.”

“We come together as a people of good will to do God’s work and hope to help repair the world,” Bishop Sanchez said, addressing the congregation. “It’s diversity that enriches us… It’s meeting together and praying together, strengthening each other, against what our Holy Father Pope Francis said was a globalization of indifference.”

Rev. Philip Hardt, the pastor of United Methodist Church praised Pope Francis for his ecumenical spirit.

“I’m a great friend of the Roman Catholic Church,” Rev. Hardt said. He said he has a paid subscription to The Tablet, studied theology at Fordham and was involved with the Catholic Charismatic movement in his 20s.

He said the Catholic Church, especially thanks to the Second Vatican Council, emerged as a leader in the ecumenical movement.

“We have the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Spirit to thank,” he said.

Bishop Sanchez said it is a mutual respect that will help bring people together. He praised the Ecumenical Association of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood as an example of a strong spirit of Christian unity in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“We need to lean on wells,” he said, referring to the Gospel reading chosen for the prayer service, John 4: 1-42, Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman.

He said as imperfect humans believers need to come together to gain refreshment together and try to understand God’s Word.

Christian unity service
Christian lay leaders read a passage from the Gospel according to John.

Richard Suppieger, a member of the United Methodist Church, said it is a Christian’s responsibility to seek out the Truth that will set humanity free. He said in praying together the congregation may come closer to the Truth.

“For all Christians the foundation is the Savior,” he said. “We’ve got to get together more often… It solidifies the unity among us as Christians. “

Rev. Henry Furey, the president of the Ecumenical Clergy Association and the pastor of United Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, said there are many goals on which Christians can work together to achieve.

“Remember, you are Christians,” he told the congregation during his welcome. “You have to work collectively to help your church help those in need.”

A collection during the service was taken up to benefit Catholic Charities Brooklyn Queens.

Seminarian Mark Bristol, who attended the event as a representative of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish, Ridgewood, said it is fortuitous that the March for Life in Washington, D.C. takes place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He said the march brings forth an incredible ecumenical spirit in that it brings Christians together to fight for the sanctity of life.

The seminarian said he was inspired by the prayer service and was comfortable praying with other dominations partly because the prayers were familiar to him.

“I personally think God smiles when all His children, who love Him, come together and worship Him,” said Rev. Howard Holmes.

Rev. Holmes came to the prayer service as the associate pastor of Christ Tabernacle Church, Glendale, the house of worship that hosted the funeral for recently murdered NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos.

“We want to promote unity in community,” he said. “We serve one God.”

The call for unity is especially close to Kathy Burger, a parishioner of St. Margaret, Middle Village. She grew up attending St. John United Methodist Church and was a Methodist for 45 years. She taught music in a Catholic school and would play during Mass. However, she could not receive communion, a fact that started bothering her, so she asked the pastor why it had to be so. That conversation, she said, was the start of her two-year journey to Catholicism.

“The Eucharist drew me in,” she said. However, she said she still appreciates many aspects of the Methodist faith, including a strong commitment to understanding the Bible and passionate praise through song.

“I know it won’t happen in my lifetime, but I hope both sides (Catholic and Protestant) will join in unity,” she said. “I think the world needs us to present a unified front.”

The prayer service, she said, is a good step toward that goal.

“It’s not going to change the world,” she said, but “it plants a seed of hope that there is more that unites us than separates us.”

Vineeta Hardt, Rev. Hardt’s wife, said that among the most important aspects of the prayer service was reflecting on Jesus’ prayer for all believers, recorded in John 17:20-21, which reads: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

She said the ecumenical movement and services that support it, such as this prayer service, try to act in according to God’s words in this passage.

In order to acknowledge the present broken state of Christianity, the congregation and clergy spoke words of confession: “Father, we confess… that we have failed to listen to voices different from our own, failed to speak words that bring healing and hope, and perpetuated exclusive attitudes to those who cry out for solidarity and fellowship. We ask to forgive us and change our hearts. Amen.”

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