SALT LAKE CITY — As a gesture symbolic of the work being done and still in need of doing for Christian unity, the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City; and the Right Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, will preach at each other’s cathedral in upcoming weeks.
The two bishops, who meet quarterly with the dean and pastor of their respective cathedrals, came up with the idea as a way to commemorate the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an international event that this year will be Jan. 18-25.
"This was an outgrowth of the relationship that we’ve been building for the last years," Bishop Hayashi said, and this type of relationship leads to cooperation on issues such as the open letter to Gov. Gary Herbert in support of Medicaid expansion that was signed by both bishops, among others. The letter ran twice late last year in the Salt Lake daily newspapers. It was funded by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, but the staffs of both bishops worked together to prepare it, Bishop Hayashi said.
"And we work together on issues of immigration," he continued. "It presents for us an opportunity to have a larger voice as well as having a friendship."
Inviting someone from another faith to preach for this purpose "was quite popular a number of years ago," said Bishop Wester, adding that he hopes his and Bishop Hayashi’s homilies will communicate to both the Catholic and Episcopal congregations the importance of Christian unity.
Pointing out that Christ prayed to his Father that "they all may be one, just as we are," Bishop Wester said Christian unity is a very important goal to strive for. Inviting Bishop Hayashi to speak during Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, and accepting the offer to preach at the Holy Eucharist at the Cathedral Church of Saint Mark, "is symbolic of our desire for that unity," Bishop Wester said. "We want to work toward unity, and we’re trying our best to see ways that we can work together toward this goal."
The message of Christian unity will be included in the homily Bishop Wester will preach, but he will take his cue from the day’s Gospel reading, he said, stressing that the goal of any sharing of the Word of God is to help the congregation "apply the Word of God in their lives and make the living Word of God an ever-more present reality in their lives."
Although the Episcopal and Catholic congregations are separate, "we share together in a very large ministry and witness, and we do this better by being together than by not," Bishop Hayashi said.
The bishops preaching at each other’s cathedral shows "we have this relationship, and we share together in fellowship and prayer and worship, and we do the things together that we can do," he added. "I would hope that gives our people a sense that this can all work together for good; that people who are mature can all work together and not necessarily agree about everything."
The history of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity stretches back more than 100 years. This year’s theme is "Has Christ Divided Us?" The Biblical text is 1 Cor 1:1-17, in which Paul calls on the church in Corinth to be "in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offers resources, including readings and meditations, for the 2014 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/events/upload/Week-of-Prayer-for-CU-2014.pdf.
Bishop Wester will preach at the 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark on Jan. 19; Dean Ray Waldon will celebrate the service. Bishop Hayashi will preach at the 11 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Feb. 9, with Bishop Wester as the presider.