Christians believe that expressing their unity is important.
One of the ways they do that annually is to worship and pray together at the Ecumenical Worship Service of Praise, Preaching and Prayer.
This year the service is being held at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 115 E. Penn St., Martinsburg.
It is the first time the church will host the meeting that has been held in different churches throughout central Pennsylvania for more than 20 years.
"It is an enormous honor for St. Matthew Lutheran Church to serve as host of this event," said the Rev. Scott E. Schul, pastor of the church. "This service constitutes a beautiful expression of the ecumenical work we've been undertaking here for many years."
The service is held in connection with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is being observed this week and was begun in 1908. The prayer service is held Sunday so it does not interfere with churches holding their own unity services.
If you go
What: Ecumenical Service of Praise, Preaching and Prayer
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 115 E. Penn St., Martinsburg
Theme: "Has Christ Been Divided?"
Reception: To be held after the service
"It demonstrates to the world that we can come together to pray," said Bishop Gregory Pile of the Allegheny Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "Together, we worship one God."
Pile, Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and Bishop Gregory Tatsis of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA are the sponsors of the liturgy.
The area tradition started with the three faiths in the late 1980s when Bishop-emeritus Joseph V. Adamec of the Catholic Diocese, retired Bishop Gerald Miller of the Allegheny Synod and now deceased Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko of the Orthodox diocese decided to hold a unity service.
Each January, one of the three faith traditions hosts the service with a second service being held in February at one of the counties the diocese and synod serve west of Blair. Pile said the two entities serve basically the same area with the Orthodox diocese covering a wider territory.
When it is their turn to host, the Catholic and Orthodox faiths hold services in their cathedrals. Pile said because the Lutheran synod does not have a cathedral, it hosts the service at one of its 117 churches.
In addition to the sponsors, judicatory leaders from other traditions are invited to participate in the service.
Among them will be the Rev. Char Burch, Penn West Conference minister of the United Church of Christ, the Rev. K. Joy Kaufmann, general presbyter of the Presbytery of Huntingdon, and the Rev. David A. Steele, district executive of the Middle Pennsylvania District, Church of the Brethren. Adamec is also among the judicatory leaders.
Kaufmann has been participating in the service for 11 years and travels more than 50 miles to attend.
"I think it is very important for the disciples of Jesus Christ to show the world their unity," she said.
It is not a perfect unity, she said, but it is a unity Christians have in their faith in Christ.
"In an increasingly secular culture, it is important for Jesus' followers to visibly and occasionally pray together," Kaufmann said.
"It is important to reflect to the community our oneness," Pile said. "We may have different buildings, different names and different titles, but in the wider community, we pray together, worship together."
He said to have six different judicatory leaders represented at the service is significant, with some of them traveling from Lewistown, Greensburg and Johnstown to Martinsburg.
"Others will be praying for us, although they are not able to be there," Pile said.
Leaders, such as the Allegheny Mennonite Conference minister and the district superintendent for the Altoona District for the United Methodist Church, had prior commitments, he said.
And whether or not a Christian's faith tradition is represented, the service is open to all believers, including those who attend independent churches.
"In the past, it was emphasized how we are different," Pile said. "Now we are saying more and more that the differences are not important.
Pile will be the speaker for the event with the theme "Has Christ Been Divided?" based on the writings of Paul in I Corinthians 1: 1-17. Other leaders will take part in service, and special music is planned.
A reception will be held after the service.