Each year Christians all over the globe set aside a week of prayer for Christian unity. Through prayer, the faithful call for the healing of division and the deepening of understanding throughout the church.
For more than one hundred years, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been celebrated from January 18 to 25. This eight-day period marks a special time for Christians from different denominations and traditions to come together in prayer, reflection, and fellowship for the sake of unity in the midst of diversity.
Each year the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity prepare a theme. A team from one country then prepares liturgical and other resources based on this theme. The materials for 2015 find their origins in Brazil.
The Canadian Council of Churches, like many other national and regional ecumenical councils around the world, adapts these resources for local use. This involves creating theological resources grounded in the Canadian context, with hymn suggestions drawn from familiar hymnals such as Common Praise and Evangelical Lutheran Worship.
The 2015 theme passage from the Gospel of John—“Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’ ”(John 4:7)—speaks to opportunities for radical hospitality in everyday moments. In this story, Jesus arrives at a well, tired, thirsty, and a stranger in the land. The woman he meets there owns the bucket and even access to the water itself. It is a moment that, draws them into a relationship of acceptance, dialogue, and coexistence.
Archdeacon Bruce Myers, General Synod’s Co-ordinator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, encourages all Anglicans to celebrate the Week of Prayer. “Common prayer with Christians of other traditions is one of the most underrated aspects of ecumenism,” he reflects. “We need to constantly pray for the unity we seek, and to offer those prayers as often as possible alongside those very Christians with whom we’re seeking to reconcile.”
The resources prepared by the Canadian Council of Churches are designed for groups of varying sizes and experience. Even if your community or congregation is small, or has never celebrated the Week of Prayer, the resources can be tailored to your needs.
Myers stresses that the “worship materials are very user friendly, and communities of all kinds and of all sizes can adapt them as seems appropriate. You don’t need to have a cathedral full of people…Jesus himself promises he’s present in even the smallest gatherings in his name.”
The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, echoes this enthusiasm for the opportunities found in celebrating Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. “As members of the Body of Christ in time and space, we have been given a cup of life, an opportunity to pray through the words and particular expression of the faith of our sisters and brothers in Brazil,” she says. “Through their own context, which is one that currently includes violence and intolerance, they are challenging themselves and challenging us here in Canada to overcome divisions.”
The Anglican Church of Canada works for Christian unity through full communion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, through membership in the Canadian Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and KAIROS (Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives), and through national and international bilateral dialogues and shared ministries across Canada. To find out more, please visit our Ecumenical Relations webpage or contact the Ven. Bruce Myers, Co-ordinator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.
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