David Turner International Ministries is coming to Boston this March 29-31! This ministry has NEVER had a meeting without a miracle. People arise from wheelchairs, walkers are left behind and hearts are set free through the miracle power of Jesus! Visit dtim.org for more information, or find us on Facebook or Youtube!
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an international initiative where Christians worldwide are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). In 2019, the theme was “Justice, Only Justice, You Shall Pursue,” (Deuteronomy 16:20), and was chosen by Christians in Indonesia. We coordinated a combination of nightly worship services and neighborhood dinners aligned with this theme to focus attention on how we can contribute to acts of unity, justice and mercy in our personal lives and within our communities.
Check out the photos below, and be encouraged by the growing interest in neighborhood-based collaboration among Christians from a variety of backgrounds – for the glory of God and the good of the city.
Night 1: UniteBoston Neighborhood Dinner: North Shore
Night 2: The Art of Hope: Creation
This event had art, spoken word, music, and creative performances related to creation, hosted by Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge. Kiki Densamo, who is a UB Neighborhood Dinner Coordinator in Cambridge, also showed her short film documenting the story of a young man who immigrated from Ethiopia to the US. It was awesome to see how this evening intentionally welcomed people who don’t normally attend church!
Day 3: UniteBoston Neighborhood Brunch: Watertown/Belmont
Rebekah and Stephen Nyakairu from Grace Chapel Watertown graciously opened their home for a delicious brunch and great conversation around racial justice, multiethnic congregations, and reconciliation. Here is a discussion guide that can be used to foster conversation within your own home or community group around racial justice, which incorporates the artwork of Stephanie Irwin.
Night 3: Anchor Prayer and Worship Service
We had a moving prayer service on Saturday evening for the anchor gathering of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – it was great to join together in prayer amidst the snowstorm outside. Thank you to Rev. Amy and St. Paul’s Cathedral for hosting this beautiful time of worship and prayer, as well as all participating clergy and congregants.
The many clergy present represented a variety of traditions, including Catholic, Evangelical, Episcopal, and United Church of Christ.
The Crossing band led us in lively song – jazzing up the traditional Christian hymns and choruses.
Ylisse Bess Washington preached a powerful word, describing that truth telling, truth seeking and living is the beginning of justice, and how we need each other to do this well. Click here to listen to her sermon.
We then lit candles and passed the light from one person to the other – A great symbol of our need to receive from one another in sharing the love of Christ to the world.
The evening concluded with writing our own commitments of how each of us can contribute to acts of justice in our own lives. Each person was invited to take home the card displaying someone else’s commitment to remember our need for one another in the work for justice and to keep them in prayer.
Day 4: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Service Projects
Night 5: Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Dinner
There was a great group at our Jamaica Plain neighborhood dinner! Good conversation about the need for economic justice, yet a recognition that systemic complexity provides no easy answers. There was enthusiasm for neighborhood-based connection and collaboration among the group to minister to the needs of the community in the likeness of Christ. Thanks to Kate Devane Brown and her husband Matt from Mosaic Boston for their gracious hospitality in opening up their home for their first neighborhood dinner!
Night 6: Medford/Malden Neighborhood Dinner
Night 7: Greek Orthodox Vespers Service
We had the opportunity to experience an Orthodox Great Vespers service this evening – for many of us, this was the first time ever worshipping in the Orthodox tradition. What a deep, rich, reverent style of worship that takes seriously the historical roots of the Christian faith!
We are grateful to Rev. Dr. Demetrios Tonias, Dean of the Anunciation Cathedral of Boston, for hosting us and teaching us about the Orthodox Church, such as their understanding of liturgy as the meeting of heaven and earth. People expressed gratitude for this opportunity to learn about the beautiful ancient traditions within the Orthodox Church, and the continuity with the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.
Delicious Greek food and fellowship with our Orthodox brothers who led us with the chanting of the service.
We are grateful to these clergy and priests who have served as ecumenical pillars in leading the work towards Christian unity. This group represents Catholic, Lutheran, and Greek Orthodox traditions.
Night 8: Taize Prayer Service
The concluding gathering for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was Taize Prayer at the MIT Chapel. Taize prayer connects people with God though contemplation, prayer, and melodic singing and has an international message of Christian reconciliation and unity. Together, we will continue to pray, “Lord our God, you have revealed yourself as One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. Be present with your church, Lord, as we respond to your call. Set us free from pious exercises that prevent us from the true worship you choose: Sharing bread with the hungry, sharing homes with the homeless, sharing clothes with the naked, sharing hearts with our own kin. May your justice roll down like waters, your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Lead our footsteps to stand with the poor, that we might stand with you.”
Experiences & Stories
“During the discussion at the Jamaica Plain dinner, I was struck by the emphasis on place in the week’s theme passage from Deuteronomy, which describes the need to pursue justice “in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you… that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Our conversation reminded me that my specific neighborhood is not only a calling but also a gift to me, and I am so excited to continue building these new relationships with neighbors!”
-Kate Devane Brown, UniteBoston Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Dinner Coordinator and member of Mosaic Boston
“I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Anunciation Cathedral of Boston and worshiping God in the tradition of a Greek Orthodox Vespers Service, which I attended as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The service was beautiful in spirit and in ritual and Rev. Tonias’ explanation of the Orthodox tradition and liturgy following the service was a total treat…fascinating and inspiring and enlightening!”
-Matt Crane, Director of Christian Education for the Presbyterian Church in Sudbury, and Director of the WEE Forum for the Institute for Christian Unity
“I love how UniteBoston has embraced this important international expression of ecumenism that has been around for decades and integrated it with UB’s vision to bring all the streams of Christianity together to enjoy and learn from one another. This year’s theme “Pursue Justice, Only Justice” helped me to understand how critical “pursuit” is to not only justice, but unity and so much more. We had an enlightening discussion at the Medford/Malden neighborhood dinner I attended: We realized that unity and justice are not things we can create but only pursue, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And pursuit means placing yourself in settings outside your familiar faith communities – like an Orthodox or Episcopal Cathedral. Each time I set foot in these unfamiliar places, God blesses me in unexpected ways with new relationships and perspectives. I am realizing that unity and justice grow out of the pursuit of those new relationships and perspectives rather than pursuing them in and of themselves.”
-Rev. Dana Baker, UniteBoston Board Member and Pastor of Social Justice, Multicultural Ministry, Grace Chapel
“Worshipping with believers from different streams of the church at the Saturday service at St. Paul’s made me thankful for all the hard work Kelly and the team at Unite Boston have put into promoting the unity of believers in our city. I had several significant discussions with people I had never met after the service that were uplifting and which made me glad to have been at the service. God is good.”
-Pastor Dave Hill, Abundant Grace Church
“This year it was a pleasure to see the Deacons of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston at so many of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity events. The services I went to were incredibly beautiful manifestations of our bond in Christ and the desire to complete that unity.”
-Vito Nicastro, Member of the UniteBoston Board and Associate Director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston
“Given the divisiveness and fear in the air all around us these days, as well as the injustices that threaten to overwhelm our hearts and hope, it was deeply nourishing to stand together affirming our commitment to one another and to a better future.”
-Amy McCreath, Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston
“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is not meant to be the only time we come together as followers of Jesus, but an energizer for our doing so throughout the year. The wonderful cornucopia of dinners, discussions and prayer services during the week here have likely lit that fire in the hearts of many. Let’s keep the fire burning! Winter is not the only season Jesus’ heart needs warming in seeing his followers join hands and hearts and voices.”
-Fr. Tom Ryan, director of the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations at the Paulist Center in Boston
“At the Malden/Medford neighborhood dinner, I learned three things:
-We should make choices to get to know others of different backgrounds, even when it’s messy
-We should start each endeavor asking, “how can I seek unity in this?”
-We should remember that seeking unity means unity comes from God rather than our tired efforts to create it.
If we do these things, we will be closer to the will of God and to the rest.”
-Rebekah Kerstetter, leader of the UniteBoston Neighborhood Dinners in Malden/Medford and member of Highrock in Arlington
“I’m always encouraged to see the number and diversity of people who God has called to his service in Boston, and of their visions for his Kingdom work here. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminded me that the grandness of God’s redemptive work for our city (and country, and world) extends far beyond the imagination of my own congregation!”
-Jeremy Wolcott, member of Park Street Church
The theme of the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “Justice, only justice, you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). In light of this theme, we created this discussion guide around Stephanie Irwin’s artwork to invite local conversation around the ways in which we can contribute to God’s justice in our communities.
Stephanie lived in the Longwood Christian Community in 2011 to 2014 while training as a physical therapist. This project was inspired by Stephanie’s experience as part of reconciliation workshops in Rwanda, Africa with members of the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. It was there that she learned that healing “could only progress by facing the truth and acting upon it.” She created these art pieces seeking to share God’s call for justice and reconciliation with all those around her. Stephanie lives in Seattle now. Her artwork and photography are available at https://www.stephanielynnephoto.com/
We are planning to use the discussion guide below during some of the UniteBoston neighborhood dinners, but it could also be used within a church bible study or community group. When coming together with people from a variety of perspectives, it is always good to set expectations and guidelines for the conversation. Together, let us consider how God is inviting us to contribute to acts of justice and reconciled relationships within our lives and communities.
Note: While Stephanie’s art focuses on relationships between Black and White people, we recognize that racial justice includes people of all races. Additionally, we value Stephanie’s reflections as stated below through her own lens as a Caucasian woman, but we do not seek to universalize her experience or perspective. We felt that this was a valuable lens into one person’s understanding of the process of reconciliation, and hope that you will be inspired as well.
Jesus stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4:16-21, NIV)
“There is another thing that disturbs me to no end about the American church. You have a white church and you have a Negro church. You have allowed segregation to creep into the doors of the church. How can such a division exist in the true Body of Christ? You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” and “Dear Lord and Father of all Mankind,” you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America. They tell me that there is more integration in the entertaining world and other secular agencies than there is in the Christian church. How appalling that is.” (Paul’s Letter to American Christians, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 4 November 1956)
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in single garment of destiny.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)
Stephanie’s Artwork and Reflections
Yokes and Chains
The first piece, titled Yokes and Chains, sets the stage for both the pain of the past that continues to cause separation as well as a hope for abolition of that separation. When considering the process of arriving at reconciliation the pain cannot be ignored but rather must be confronted. As the two children face each other they reflect on the reality and pain of slavery. In this moment they bear witness to the fault, pain, consequence and responsibility of the transatlantic slave trade. In response, they express their pain through the shedding of tears. Both their tears reveal remorse for what transpired in the past as well as for the racism and segregation that persists even today. Though they are separated by a darkness that is fueled by American society, their sorrow also reflects a hope for future change. By first gaining awareness of the truth rather than hiding from it, they choose to be a part of that change.
The second piece in the series is the foundation of the process. True healing can only progress by facing the truth and acting upon it. The Call presents this truth as the Word of God. The part of the text in focus reveals Colossians 3:11-14 which reminds us that we are called to be one, that in Christ there is no separation and that we must embrace unity through forgiveness, healing and love. The silhouette brings to light the need to receive the truth as the two children from the first piece fall to their knees in surrender.
As she drew this picture, Stephanie describes, “My mind rushed back to another day in Rwanda where I saw a light emerge in the darkness through the joining of two men who expected to be lifelong enemies. A Tutsi man forgave the unforgivable of his Hutu neighbor and perpetrator from the 1994 Genocide. As I witnessed them walk hand-in-hand, I was convinced that I had never before seen a more beautiful sight. It was at this point that I acquired a renewed hope of flourishing unity between whites and blacks in America. Similarly, the two children who were separated by darkness in the first piece are now joined here to create a light as they respond to their call. With fingers interlocked they move forward together determined to never be divided.”
The final piece brings the project and everyone together. The hands depicted in this piece are the hands of real people, including the artist’s, who choose to join with people of all color to stand for racial reconciliation and live in multicultural and multigenerational community. Bordering the hands are the words “united” and “reconciled” in twelve different languages to emphasize the beauty of diversity. The intention of incorporating these languages is to allow anyone to feel as if that they are a part of this piece. The piece is titled Beloved Community in order to portray racial reconciliation as specifically centered around love that is fostered through a community. Additionally, it references the song “Beloved Community” developed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which reflects the vision of all four pieces cumulatively. You are invited to join this beloved community with those building it around you.
- Describe your initial thoughts or reactions to the scripture passage, quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Stephanie’s art pieces.
- Where have you personally seen racial justice or inequity taking place? What most breaks your heart about this?
- Where do you see people sharing in the prophetic mission of Jesus as described in Luke 4? Where is there evidence of the healing, liberating, redeeming power of God in your life or neighborhood? Share a story that comes to mind.
- The Bible has continually been a source of inspiration for the Christian community to address conditions that are unjust or undermine human dignity. Where do you see an opportunity for the Church to come together for the cause of racial justice in this neighborhood or community?
-Read the Christian Churches Together response to Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail here (2013)
-Check out the Emmanuel Gospel Center’s Race & Christian Community Initiative
Did you know that Boston has a Healthcare Fellowship, which provides fellowship, education and mentorship for people in diverse medical fields? Their vision is to reunite faith and healthcare, in line with God’s intention of bringing holistic healing to the whole world.
They host a monthly dinner, and in September, their gathering highlighted stories about how people had seen God at work at their work. Click on the link below to hear more from one pharmacist, two researchers and a doctor about how their faith in Jesus impacted their work!
Dr. Tracy Balboni speaking to around 80 people at the hall in Harvard Medical School.
The Boston Healthcare Fellowship is a fellowship for people training in diverse fields such as clinical medicine, public health, nursing, research, dentistry, and physical therapy. For more information about the Boston Healthcare Fellowship, check out their website, and be sure to sign up for their monthly newsletter for updates on events.
We had a great time celebrating all that God has done this year through UB at the UniteBoston fundraising party! There was Greek food, a jazz trio with the musicians on the UniteBoston Worship Team, and featured breakout stories, including:
-Paul Castiglione, UniteBoston’s Somerville Dinner Coordinator on “The Power of Unity in Diversity”
-Cleopatra Muhammad, UniteBoston’s Dorchester Coordinator on “Gaining New Perspective and Hope”
-Caleb McCoy, Christian Hip Hop artist and musician on “The Joyful Noise of Collaboration and a Wider Network”
-Chloe Gaydos, UniteBoston worship night coordinator on “A New Vision for the Future”
-Rev. David Wright, UB Board Member and Executive Director of the Black Ministerial Alliance on “Nurturing God’s Revival”
Thanks to everyone who gave to help us reach our goal of $12,000! Click here to learn why your gift to UB makes a difference.
Thanks to Deepak Bardhan for the great photographs here. Check out more photos from the event on Facebook!
Featured Breakout Sessions