By LINDA M. LINONIS
The World Day of Prayer service at St. Michael Church featured a French flair this year, incorporating a musical Taiz response, a French hymn and croissants at the luncheon that followed.
About 60 people participated Friday in the worship event written by the World Day of Prayer Committee of France. It focused on immigration with the theme, “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me,” from the Gospel of Matthew. As World Day of Prayer material notes the passage from Chapter 25 is about “caring for the hungry, thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.”
Maureen Hall, pastoral minister at the host church, said other participating churches were Canfield Christian, Canfield Presbyterian, Canfield United Methodist, Lord of Life Lutheran and Western Reserve United Methodist.
St. Michael has participated in World Day of Prayer for about 20 years, she said. “It’s important on two levels. It’s a community activity that involves Christian neighbors,” Hall said. “We also hear about situations in other countries and that leads to global unity.”
The service depicted a group of women, all with various speaking parts, dressed in a bright color or wearing a colorful scarf. The stranger who came into their midst wore gray. The scenario suggested that most people have experienced being the outsider — at work, in family, in a social setting, recreation, sports or even at church. But the woman in gray was welcomed by the others, who hugged, shook hands, bumped fists and smiled their welcomes. That response follows the example of Christ to welcome strangers, who represent human diversity.
Program materials highlighted France’s status as a “land of immigration to satisfy its need for labor" and the country has “welcomed asylum-seekers on political grounds.” As one reader noted, “The French opened their homes and hearts to me.”
The service included interaction among those in the pews who were asked to share a story of feeling welcomed with a stranger sitting nearby. Bernadette Allen of Berlin Center, attending with her husband, Bob, recalled the feeling of being welcomed at facilities where she visited with her therapy dog. The Allens are Lord of Life members.
Alice Nicolas, an exchange student from Belgium, was a program participant and attended with her hostess, Jane Perrett of Canfield Presbyterian. “I’ve never felt like a stranger here,” said the 18-year student at Canfield High School. “I’ve been so welcomed.”
A program participant, Trinidad Galizia of Canfield Christian, said she’s been involved in World Day of Prayer for a decade. “This is a good way for women of different churches to meet. You learn about different countries,” she said.
Galizia, originally from Peru, said she could relate to the program. “When I first moved to Canfield, some things were hard to find or figure out,” she said. “Canfield Christian was welcoming.”
Diane Oliva of Lord of Life said she has attended various World Day of Prayer programs and likes the idea of “working together.”
“What I like is that this program is going on at churches around the country and the world,” said Karen Royer of Canfield UMC.
Lisa Velker of Canfield Presbyterian said she liked being part of a global event. “People are praying together,” she said.
Other program participants were Maxine Gordon of St. Michael; Linda Martin and Sue Eynon of Western Reserve UMC; Bernadette Beler, Diane Malloy and Vangie McDorman, all of Lord of Life; and Leta Sims of Canfield Christian.