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Praying with one voice

Six area churches will focus on Christian unity and the importance of prayer at a World Community Service at 2 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Bertha. The service is based on the national Church Women United movement, according to organizers.

"I think we have a more powerful witness when we as Christians agree instead of disagree," said Bev Heinze, member of St. Joseph's. "Jesus just wanted us all to be united like he talked about in John 17:11 'that they all may be one.'"

The ecumenical group has gathered at alternating churches for more than 40 years. In addition to World Community Day, the churches celebrate World Day of Prayer in March and May Friendship Day.

A woman named Mrs. Hill began the ecumenical services in the mid-60s when she moved into the area, said Gen Aldrich of Wrightstown United Methodist. Hill was familiar with Church Women United and wanted to begin a similar movement in Bertha. She thought it would be nice to be an organized group, Aldrich said.

"I think she was a little ahead of her time in the ecumenical ideas," Heinze said.

Aldrich became involved with the services when they first began.

"It just really upsets me at times to see the divisions among the churches over silly little things," Aldrich said. "Like some little thing of doctrine or somebody will get shook up because so and so did such and such."

Through her involvement with ecumenical events, Aldrich has learned just how much churches are alike in trying to serve Jesus, she said.

"I think we all have the same goals and sometimes we come at it from different angles," she said.

The churches that are involved in the event are the New Life Church of God in Bertha, Wrightstown United Methodist, United Church of Christ in Bertha, Hewitt United Methodist, St. Joseph's Catholic Church and the Church of the Nazarene in Hewitt.

Works of Mercy is the theme of the service. The service will feature presentations by members of each of the six churches on feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, sheltering the homeless, visiting prisoners and forgiving offenses willingly. They will share about the ministry of Mother Theresa and local missionaries. Heinze said Jesus is ultimately the inspiration for all the topics.

A reflection will be given by Father Dan Walz and Intercessions by Judy Wagner. A light lunch will be served following the service.

Two of the offerings collected at the three different services are supposed to go to Christian Women United. However, Aldrich said most of the funds go towards the local food shelf and missions of interest to individual churches. One time they gave the money for Bibles for the people of Iraq, she said.

The churches haven't encountered many barriers in conducting the services together over the years, Aldrich said.

The participating churches are all united in the basic doctrine, Heinze said.

"It seems that the churches that want to do it are open to it," she said.

Older women have been the primary participants in the service because it is held during the work day, said Aldrich and Heinze. Men are invited as well, and young women are welcome to bring their children.

"I really believe that we need to get together and pray," Heinze said. "Whenever anybody gets together to pray it's a good thing. I'm really happy we can pray together and love each other."