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A foretaste of the life to come

December 28, 2012
This post was submitted by Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches
A question that I often ask preachers and pastors is whether anyone in their congregations ever complains if the worship service goes longer than an hour and a half. At least, I ask Roman Catholic and Protestant preachers and pastors that question and they often respond with a chagrined or sometimes even weary smile.
Not only is the Roman Catholic tradition a member of The Canadian Council of Churches, not only are many Protestant denominations, large and less large, members of the CCC but so are seven Orthodox traditions and I never ask the question of them. Orthodox worship services often stretch to three hours or more.
The weekend of November 17 and 18 was, even in the Orthodox tradition, something of a record! On that weekend the first Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral in Canada opened in the west end of Toronto. St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral opened with a twelve hour worship service! And not only was the service twelve hours but there were a thousand people present, starting at 3:00 a.m. and concluding with a bountiful lunch of Ethiopian food at 3:00 p.m.
For twelve hours, people in a brand new sanctuary, streaming with sunshine and glorious icons that are both Orthodox and African prayed with vigour, sang with vigour and celebrated the Eucharist. They applauded the words of the politicians and graciously applauded me when I, as the General Secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches, proclaimed that the Spirit was indeed moving in that cathedral.
In the Orthodox tradition it is believed that the worship services should be a foretaste of our life to come in God and so the robes of the clergy sparkled with light and colour as did the umbrellas that are a symbol of the dome of heaven. Three arks of the covenant, one for each of St. Mary, St. Gabriel and St. Michael were physically represented and many, many children laughed and sang and clapped and squirmed around this part of the Body of Christ that is the whole Church.
And the drums!!!! The deacons beat and leapt the rhythm of the drums, more drums than I could count. The floor of the new cathedral reverberated to their sound. It was joyous, it was enthusiastic, it was the Spirit of God moving, truly moving in that time and place, in the faith of those people gathered.
The Ethiopian Orthodox tradition is one of the 25 members ofThe Canadian Council of Churches. Formed in 1944 and joined by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1997, the CCC encourages us all to pray for Christian Unity during the January 18th – 25th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are available on the CCC website councilofchurches.ca
In 2014, for only the third time in one hundred years, the Week of Prayer materials will focus on Canada. What is your parish planning?
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