Peter Noteboom preaches a seromon at a podium

“Help us, Lord, to have a life turned towards you”: A Homily from General Secretary Pastor Peter Noteboom for the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU)

Although many celebrations of the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan 18-25, 2024) are now behind us, we can continue to pray for Christian unity at any time of year.

It is in this spirit that we’d like to share a special homily the Council’s General Secretary Pastor Peter Noteboom delivered at several WPCU celebrations across southern Ontario this month.

In the sermon, Noteboom recalls what living in Burkina Faso years ago helped him learn about the nature of true community. He connects these lessons with the theme of the 2024 WPCU, “You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself,” which was chosen by an ecumenical team from Burkina Faso with the facilitation of the local Chemin Neuf Community (CCN).        

“Help us, Lord, to have a life turned towards you”

Burkina Faso. Bobo-Dioulasso. I remember the thriving market. One in the centre of town with every kind of modern and traditional goods and services. Grains, fruits, vegetables. Buttons, textiles, shoes. Bronze sculptures, wooden masks, indigo dyed country cloth. It was a delight, a feast for the senses, 

I was there looking for an answer to my burning question: what must I do to promote life in the villages in Niger where we were working? That question was tied up for me in the answer to our lawyer’s question: what must I do to inherit eternal life? I believed that my work in Niger was one of the way I responded to the question and answer in the story of the Good Samaritan. I wanted to be be part of the process of going to the one who had been robbed, bandaging wounds, offering healing, and bringing people to a place of shelter and home. 

We learned from Le Centre d’Études et d’Expérimentations Économiques et Sociales pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CESAO) about autopromotion communautaire, community self-help.  

It was a rich learning experience, a delight, and a feast for my senses too. Here are a few principles I remember from that training: 

  • Begin with where the community is, not where you are.  
  • Listen, don’t tell. 
  • Pose good questions. Don’t impose answers. 
  • Be patient.
  • Think critically along the action – reflection spiral: what do you see? What are the causes of what you see? What are the consequences?  
  • Share, don’t give. 
  • Accompany, don’t lead. 
  • Celebrate with the community when they are ready. 
  • Self-evaluate. 

I still struggle to practice what we learned in Bobo-Dioulasso.   

I see, that growing Christian unity, here and in The Canadian Council of Churches; loving our neighbours and neighbourhood in Canada and next door, is a similar process…

 >> Read the full sermon to learn how these insights relate to building community and Christian unity in Canada.  

>> Remember you can subscribe to the Week of Prayer newsletter for updates and stories of Christian unity throughout the entire year!  

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