Participants arriving for the service
Leaders of several denominations met for a joint Advent prayer service earlier this week aimed at overcoming conflicts, misunderstandings and doctrinal differences that have plagued the Christian community for years.
The service at All Saints Church in Borella, near Colombo, on November 28 was the first of its kind in over a decade, which in itself underscored the need to come together to forge a better understanding, many of the participants said.
Ainslie Joseph, from Colombo archdiocese’s Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue which organized the service with the National Christian Council said lack of interest in ecumenism prevented the service from being held for about 15 years.
He said even though there are doctrinal differences, Christians must look to develop what they have in common and not dwell on what divides them.
“We have to keep dialogue going in spite of our differences. We need to continue meeting others and develop a fellowship as a way of sustaining relationships,” he said.
Following the service the various leaders discussed ways of moving the Christian community forward.
“There will always be doctrinal differences, but we can share common experiences. Spiritual and missionary experiences can be shared so that we can act together on common issues,” said Father Reid Shelton Fernando, secretary of the ecumenism commission.
“Divisions among the Christians can be damaging as hardline groups can create further problems for us such as with regard to conversion issues,” he said, adding that by coming together “misunderstandings can disappear and we can help each other promote human values.”
According to Anglican Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey of Colombo, Christians need to start speaking with one voice.
“We may belong to different ideologies and cultures but we are one,” he said.
Reverend Ebenezer Joseph, the National Christian Council (NCC) general secretary said ecumenism must be made to work for the benefit of not just Christians but for society in general.
Ecumenism for the NCC is to find areas where churches can work together and co-ordinate activities to help others such as in education justice and peace work, as well as relief and rehabilitation work, he said.
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