Next Tuesday evening, Rev. Lynne Hutchison will lead the faithful in an iconic Canadian experience by singing a liturgy developed in the United States.
Celebrating the diversity of cultures within Canada is the key aspect of the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs from Sunday to Jan. 26.
"It helps us think a little about what it means to be Canadian," says Hutchison, pastor of St. Luke's Zion Lutheran Church about the international prayer material produced this year by a Canadian team of writers.
Hutchison will lead a service in the style of the Holden Evening Prayers, a vesper-style service composed by Marty Haugen and named after a Lutheran retreat centre in Washington state. The service begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 2903 McPhillips St.
Because Canadians live within a culture that welcomes diversity, the materials produced jointly by several ecumenical organizations incorporates aboriginal prayers, the French-Canadian expression don de Dieu, which translates as gift of God, and an exchange of gifts from various traditions, explains a member of the writing team.
"While writing it, we wanted to make it feel Canadian with some of our cultural reflections, but we don't want it to be a caricature," explains Norman Lévesque of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal.
The Canadian team also commissioned new hymns and songs about Christian unity, available at www.ecumenism.net, as well as producing a short video on the week of prayer, an event celebrated annually around the world for more than a century. Each year, Christians from a different country prepare material that is used worldwide. This is only the second time in a century the materials originated in Canada.
Over the next week, Christians around the world will be praying and reflecting on the materials produced in Canada, an idea that both overwhelms and excites Nicholas Jesson, a Saskatoon-based member of the writing team.
"It gives you a great sense that the church is bigger than our own experience," explains Jesson, a Roman Catholic married to a Presbyterian minister.
"There are so many different languages and different cultures and traditions."
In Winnipeg, daily prayer services over eight days showcase the variety of worship styles among Christian churches, including Anglican, United, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic and Coptic Orthodox.
The week begins with a city-wide ecumenical worship service 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19 at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, 525 Wardlaw Ave. The Archbishop Richard Gagnon, recently installed as the archbishop of Winnipeg, will lead the prayer to four directions accompanied by aboriginal drummer Ko'ona Cochrane.
"In this shared action of prayer we help to strengthen the bonds of unity and reconciliation between our aboriginal sisters and brothers and the Christian church and community at large," explains local organizer Rev. Rob Polz.
The last service of the week, where youth pray in four south St. Vital churches, is designed to help young Christians understand the variety of denominational expressions within Winnipeg, says organizer Michelle Marchildon.
"We've made it a bit of a pilgrimage and made it a bit of a teaching (service) so the youth could learn more about other traditions," she says of the travelling prayer service that begins 2 p.m., Jan. 26 at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church, 135 John Forsyth Rd. and ends with closing prayers at 5 p.m. at Sterling Mennonite Fellowship, 1008 Dakota St.
That type of co-operation is also uniquely Canadian, says Jesson, since churches have learned to work with each other because Canada doesn't have one dominant or state religion.
"You get churches reaching out and knowing who to talk to and who to work with" in other denominations, says Jesson.
"In some countries, that's incomprehensible because they don't know each other."