Part of the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the service allowed participants to connect with their ancestral roots.
Rev. Dr John Hunte, King Shepherd of Israel, representing the Spiritual Baptist Community, delivered a message that praised the symbolic representation of stones and water.
Hunte said: “Would that the decolonization of spiritual practice continue—that Christian services continue to reconnect to the tradition and symbolic rituals that preceded and inspired its evolution.”
In Hunte’s opinion, this symbolic act and use of stones and water in the service allowed participants to connect with their ancestral roots and routes in this region “towards unity, beyond the ways that our colonial legacy has sought to disconnect us from our heritages, from our languages and from our practices” as descendants of Africans and Indigenous peoples.
The service also celebrated the Patronal Festival of St Paul. Parts of the service were conducted, lessons read, and songs sung, by leaders of the African Episcopalian Methodist Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Salvation Army, Roman Catholic Church, and Spiritual Baptist Community.
Hunte offered a meditation that encouraged people to “move beyond ecumenism to promote—and provoke—inclusive and transparent spiritual rituals.” He argued that the “divine in nature,” of “living stones” and the cleansing and healing energy of water, are ways for us to reflect on our personal history and legacy to continue to purge and to heal from the effects of injustices enacted and experienced. Further, he added, it is in the collecting of stones that we band together as altars of hope.
“When we place our rocks together, when we symbolically lean against each other, united, together, we are able to speak out against injustice, we are able to fall behind those who are our warriors, we are able to stand to protect those among us who are more vulnerable,” he said.