“Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit” (Jn 15, 5-9) is the Gospel passage chosen for this year. The word ‘abide’ is central because seeking unity is a full time commitment.
“It’s not enough to meet together for evangelizing or charitable actions. What lies beneath everything we do together is love. We could make the most wonderful plans, we could bring together Christians from many different groups; but if we don’t have love, none of this has value”.
So says the Quezon City Ecumenical Fellowship (QCEF), near Manila (Philippines). Many members of the local Focolare communities are part of this association.
This year’s resource material was prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp. The texts for reflection during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021 (18-25 January) state “Abiding in Christ the fruit of solidarity and witness grows”. And the members of QCEF have years of experience of this. We would like to give voice to some of their testimonies, highlighting their variety and creativity, so they may inspire many to work every day for unity between Churches.
Rev Kenneth Aguilera, Regional Superintendent of the Methodist Church with UNIDA explains, “When we launched QCEF many years ago, we really never thought of giving rise to a fellowship community or ecumenical association. It was simply meeting together as friends from different Churches over a cup of coffee. But the informal meeting was so enjoyable that we started to do it regularly. And so QCEF was born. We shared joys and sufferings to the point that we started to care for one another and to love each other’s Churches. We devised occasions and events to be together regularly. So when the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity arrived, it was a great occasion for all of us to walk, work and pray together. And that’s how I understood that true Ecumenism is a kind of competition between us Christians to make our mutual love grow. It’s like working with my own family, and I think there’s a strong presence of Jesus among us”.
“The pandemic has not prevented us from meeting up regularly,” write Jane and Bert. “We continue to meet Online to reflect on the Word of Life and to share our experiences. We work together on shared sponsorship programs. In order to help many people who are experiencing hard times, we contacted various experts and organized webinars and video-conferences on the different issues we’re having to face in these times, like the management of psychological challenges in times of crisis, such as anxiety and depression; the prevention of domestic violence and abuse of minors; and raising awareness of understanding ecumenism as a journey towards the unity of Christians. We also organized food collections for the victims of the recent typhoons and floods. And through a communion of goods among us, we were able to give emergency financial aid and essential supplies to those affected. We also collected funds for a diocese which suffered particularly bad typhoon damage.”
Hedy Ng and family are Catholic and live next door to a Methodist Church. “Our relationship as neighbours began even before their church was built. Straight away we offered them the opportunity to link into our own water supply and we built a dividing wall between the two properties to grant them some privacy. Every time their minister changes, we do all we can to make friends with them, as they are truly our brothers and sisters. Our children all play together. Recently, Rev Dione Padel participated in our meetings with QCEF and was very happy to be part of the fraternity lived among us. Unfortunately, he recently suffered the loss of his wife, and all of us at QCEF did all we could to be near him. We offered him financial and moral support, and the unity built continues to grow.”