After committee discussions lasted late into Tuesday night, the Assembly gathered Wednesday morning for the traditional service of Word and Sacrament with ecumenical partners.
A choir comprised of Princeton Theological Seminary alumni led the congregation in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” while worship leaders from north, south, east and west streamed toward the Table. Pastors from Java, Zambia, Scotland, Korea, Syria and Cuba were among the participants. Global music from the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God, was used; Arabic, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish were sung.
The Rev. Jerry Pillay, president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and General Secretary of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa, preached from Isaiah 40:31 (the theme of this General Assembly), Micah 6:6-8 and Luke 4:14-21. Pillay was clear about the church’s role in today’s world, calling for unity in the common pursuit of justice.
“Jesus Christ directly linked himself to the coming of justice, righteousness, and peace,” he said. “[For us] to do any less is to live a partial and incomplete gospel.”
He continued, “Justice isn’t a popular word, especially for those who benefit from economic systems and political structures. We tend to remain silent in the face of injustice because we benefit from systems. We do not want to lose our own privileges.”
“Only in repentance and humility we can become who Jesus calls us to be… it begins with me.”
In the midst of visible signs of Christian unity in today’s service, there were also indications of continued challenges within ecumenical dialogue. Eucharist was celebrated, but a printed announcement stated, “While we recognize that the invitation to share in the Lord’s Supper is extended to all baptized Christians, we are mindful that our current brokenness does not yet allow all to come to the Lord’s Table together. This service of worship is both a witness to the unity we share in Jesus the Christ and a prayer for the full visible unity of the Church.”