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Prayer Service for Christian Unity brings together choirs, congregants of many faiths at St. Ann in Bethany Beach

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Several churches participated in the choir, which also included a combined bell choir at the annual Prayer Service for Christian Unity Jan. 21, 2020 at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Bethany Beach. (Dialog photo/Michael Short)

BETHANY BEACH — They came together to pray and worship.

The annual Prayer Service for Christian Unity attracted Christians of many faiths to a service Jan. 21 at St. Ann’s Catholic Church as part of the annual week-long international celebration intended to bridge divides. This year’s service in this beach town drew a large crowd and included a combined choir from several churches as well as a bell choir.

Jerri Pierce holds the strength oar at the annual Prayer Service for Christian Unity Jan. 21, 2020 at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach. (Dialog photo/Michael Short)

“In the face of difficulties we recognize the need to pull together and to unite our efforts … Gracious God, heal the painful memories of the past which have wounded our churches and continue to keep us apart,” according to the Prayers of the People. “Gracious God, teach us to fix our course on Christ, the true light.”

“We have come together as Christians, and therefore as fellow disciples,” said Pastor Pete Maurer of Frankford Presbyterian Church. “As we yearn for Christian unity, let us commit ourselves anew to work for this common goal.”

Participants included a combined bell choir from Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church, St. Ann’s Catholic Church and St. Martha’s Episcopal Church. There was also choir involvement by Community Lutheran Church, Millville United Methodist Church and Union Wesley United Methodist Church.

Pastor Mark Molter of Community Lutheran Church cited the service as a good starting point, adding that there is much misunderstanding among different Chistian faiths. “90 percent of what we believe is the same,” he said.

Pam Dougherty holds the trust oar. at the annual Prayer Service for Christian Unity Jan. 21, 2020 at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach. (Dialog photo/Michael Short)

“Loving God, we ask that you would grant us the spirit of wisdom and unity, so that we may be one, even as you are one with our Lord Jesus Christ – and he with you. Enable all the members of the body of Christ, to live together in unity and fellowship with one another,” according to a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity notecard which was prepared by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.

This year’s service was sponsored by the Southeast Sussex Ministerium and the collection was divided among six ministerium churches which have food banks.

The service included a small boat placed upon the altar. During the service, eight individuals came down the center aisle and left oars placed against the boat to symbolize trust, reconciliation, hope and other virtues.

That was a reference to the passage in Acts, in which the Apostle Paul is shipwrecked upon the island of Malta. That passage with its dramatic shipwreck and Paul’s great faith that no one would be harmed was the centerpiece of this year’s International Unity readings.

Paul and his fellow passengers, who were not harmed, were warmly received and treated with great love by the people of Malta. “They showed us unusual kindness,” according to Acts 27.