A dozen Sun City churches will gather next week in fellowship, breaking bread and praying with one another for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity services.
The Week of Prayer dates back more than 100 years worldwide but has been a part of Sun City for approximately a decade. Marshall Esty, event coordinator and a member of the Church of Palms, said many local churches don’t have any opportunities to worship with other denominations.
“Those who are scripturally oriented believe that all of God’s people really should be working together, and this upcoming week achieves just that,” Esty said.
Esty said 12 churches are participating, with five hosting the services and the others co-hosting and helping at each of the sites. They include Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, First United Methodist, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, Lakeview United Methodist, Church of the Palms, St. Joachim and St. Anne Catholic Church, All Saints of the Desert Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian, St. Christopher Episcopal Church, St. Clement of Rome Catholic Church, Faith Presbyterian Church and The Salvation Army.
Before starting the Week of Prayer in Sun City, Esty had been organizing the services in Illinois, where he served as a pastor for years.
“People were really receptive to wanting to know one another,” Esty said.
Ed McDonnall, coordinator of St. Elizabeth Seton’s service, said he’s celebrated the Week of Prayer for many years and believes in its importance.
“We’re all diverse in many ways,” said McDonnall. “People may not be under the same total practices and beliefs, but we have the common ground of Christ.”
Luhleem Davidson, service coordinator at Shepherd of the Desert, said the Week of Prayer is particularly crucial after the recent Tuscon shooting that left six people dead and others wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
“As we’ve been definitely hearing from our nation this week, we truly need to celebrate our similarities rather than our differences,” Davidson said.
Mary Fogelson, a parish staff member at St. Elizabeth Seton, said churches should take the time to know one another.
“The Week of Prayer is about coming together,” said Fogelson, who’s also a speaker at St. Elizabeth Seton’s service. “This week is also considered a symbol of hope for all believers who feel that we can work with each other despite a few differences.”
In addition, every service will have an offering for a local charity. This year, the churches are taking donations for Valley View Community Food Bank in Youngtown.
Deacon Irving Dennis, coordinator of St. Clement of Rome’s service, said he’s pleased to reach out to the food bank for the Week of Prayer.
“This is our chance to support those who are less fortunate than us, while coming together,” Dennis said.
Dennis said he hopes the Week of Prayer continues in Sun City for many years to come and expands to even more churches.
“As time goes on, it’s really going to be important for us to get together, even with all of the problems going on in the world,” Dennis said. “We have a chance to pray, reflect and move forward.”
Mitchell Vantrease can be reached at 876-2526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.