Boston Christian leaders gather to pray for unity and charity

WEST ROXBURY -- Christians in Boston gathered to pray for unity and charity on Jan. 24, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Religious leaders, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Church and Rev. Diane Kessler of the Massachusetts Council of Churches led the ecumenical celebration of the word at St. John Chrysostom Parish in West Roxbury. Those assembled from the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant faiths prayed for the poor and took up an offering to benefit a Roslindale food pantry.

Father David Michael, pastor at St. John’s, welcomed all to the parish and called on them to pray for Christian unity.

“In the Catholic Community over the past few weeks, we’ve been hearing from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, in which Paul takes pain to remind the Corinthians that unity in body really is the hallmark of the unity in Spirit,” he said. “We have come here tonight to pray for that unity, which is the will of the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Cardinal O’Malley began the service with prayer for those who suffer, particularly “those who share in the suffering and rejection of Christ.”

The congregation sang “The Cry of the Poor” and held a moment of silence for those whose voices are not heard. They also prayed the Our Father, which was followed by three readings, a Gospel reading and the homily.

Metropolitan Methodios said in the homily that the healing of the deaf mute in the Gospel reading is a miracle that is the result of a caring community who brought the man to Jesus.

“This implies a caring, believing and trusting community. It also implies that without it, the healing might not have happened,” he said.

Christians are called to bring the brokenness of humanity to Christ, he added.

“Part of this brokenness is also the divisions among us who call upon the name of Christ -- a brokenness which our generation has inherited from the past, hence our gathering here this evening to pray for healing and unity and for strengthening our resolve to follow the Gospel and to do the will of Christ,” he said.

The service continued with the Aposodios to represent the Eastern Church and in English by all present.

Before the conclusion of the service both Cardinal O’Malley and Metropolitan Methodios took the opportunity to express their gratitude to Rev. Kessler, who will retire as the director of the Council of Churches in June. Rev. Kessler has worked for the organization for over 30 years.

“We thank God for Rev. Diane Kessler,” Methodios said. “The Greek Orthodox community in the commonwealth and throughout New England has grown to love and respect her because of her great faith, because of her genuine concern for the poor in the community and for her love of the Orthodox community.”

“Know that wherever you go, you will be accompanied by our prayers,” he said to Kessler.

Cardinal O’Malley added that he is grateful for Kessler’s work.

“So often as Christians we lose sight of the importance of the obligation that we all have to work and pray for unity,” he said, turning to Rev. Kessler to add “You have always kept that before our eyes, never trivializing the differences that separate us but always emphasizing what unites us and uniting us by our friendship with you.”

Kessler thanked both of them for their words and said that the friendships they have in Christ have been a blessing to her.

“I experienced most fully the reality of the life of Christ through my relationships with all of you, and I know that my faith has been deepened, strengthened and broadened because of my experience with all of you and your faith,” she said. “The blessing really has been mine.”

Pat Leger, a parishioner at St. John’s, said that she truly enjoyed the service.

“It was just so moving to see everybody together,” she said. “In my heart I thought it was just beautiful, and I know it’s what Christ wants us to do.”

Noah Donnell-Kilmer, a 16-year-old parishioner who was one of the readers, agreed.

“I liked how the different faiths came together. It’s what this week is all about,” he said.