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Week of prayer aims to make unity strong

| Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

Local churches, where attendance is declining, collections are dwindling and conflicts are splintering congregations, will pause for a week to pray for Christian unity.

"In the midst of the conflicts, we have a core faith," said the Rev. Donald B. Green, executive director of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, an ecumenical agency of 24 Christian faiths from 10 counties.

Christians around the world will celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18-25. The event is supported by the World Council of Churches, the Vatican and the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute.

It began in 1908 at Graymoor in Garrison, N.Y., and affords various denominations the opportunity to show that they can come together "regardless of name brand," said the Rev. Wayne Yost, executive presbyter, Kiskiminetas Presbytery and chairman of the Christian Associates council of bishops and judiciary executives.

"Romans and Protestants and Orthodox all get together and that doesn't happen everywhere. We're blessed that there is not the deep divide," he said.

Roman Catholic and Orthodox church leaders were involved with the ecumenical Christian Associates from its beginnings 35 years ago, he said.

"That has built a level of cooperation and trust over the years," Yost said.

This year's theme is "That they may become one in your hand," taken from a passage in Ezekiel.

As Christians pray for unity among denominations, the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches here are being split by conservative leaders who disagree with the national churches over such issues as the ordination of gay clergy.

The week begins locally with the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter, hosted by the Kittanning Ministerial Association at Grace Presbyterian Church, North Jefferson and Arch streets, Kittanning. The service begins at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 with Yost as preacher.

This year's observance coincides with the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

"We'll be including prayers for the country and our new leaders as they begin their journey together," Green said.

The week concludes Jan. 25 with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall. The service begins at 4 p.m. The Rev. Basil Schott, Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh's Byzantine Catholic Archdiocese, will offer the homily.

Additional Information:

So you know

What : Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, during which various denominations will come together to worship

When : Jan. 18-25

Where : Christian churches around the region

For more information, contact Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania at 412-688-9070.

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