It began 100 years ago, in a remote hillside chapel 80 kms from New York City. Father Paul Wattson, an Episcopalian priest, gathered the men and women of his religious order together to pray for Christian unity.
Back then it was called the Christian Unity Octave, but as word and energy spread, the event evolved into the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The 100th annual event is about to take place from Jan. 20 to 27, 2008. Millions of Christians from Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic churches now participate in dozens of countries.
Each year a joint committee from the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Commission for the Promotion of Christian Unity picks a new theme and Biblical text. This year they have chosen “Pray without ceasing” from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18.
There are resources aplenty for this centenary prayer week. Churches and individuals can download some of these directly from WCC, including a resource booklet, a list of prayers, and international songs (with music) from places like Côte d’Ivoire and Chile.
The Canadian Council of Churches has also adapted these resources for a Canadian context. You can order a kit (in French or English) that includes an ecumenical worship service, planning tips, and posters for advertising.
Look out for related events in your area, like the Jan. 27 prayer service at Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal, Que. This service, organized by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, is expected to draw 1,200 people, seven choirs, and 24 Christian denominations.
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