Week of Prayer for Christian Unity focuses on Jerusalem

From Jan. 18 to 25, 2011, Christians around the world—including many Canadian Anglicans—will mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, one of the world’s oldest and most widely observed ecumenical events.

This year’s material has been prepared by Christian leaders in Jerusalem and presents the theme “The church in Jerusalem, yesterday, today, tomorrow.” For their focus verse, the writers chose Acts 2:42, which describes the life of the early church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (NRSV)

The Anglican Church of Canada’s relationship with the church in Jerusalem was strengthened at the June 2010 meeting of General Synod, where members heard several presentations from Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and his wife, Mrs. Shafeeqa Dawani.

The 2011 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity resource, jointly produced by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches, is available for download. It includes

  • An outline for an ecumenical worship service
  • Biblical reflections and prayers for the eight days
  • Additional prayers and music

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in 1908, when an Episcopalian priest, the Rev. Paul Wattson, encouraged members of his religious order to pray for Christian unity. In 2008, the Canadian Council of Churches compiled a collection of prayers used throughout the movement in Liturgies for Christian Unity (Novalis).

Since 1968, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been jointly coordinated by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches, of which the Anglican Church of Canada is a member. The organizers encourage churches to adapt the materials to their local context and to use the prayers at any time of year.

Local adaptation and cooperation is key, said General Synod’s interim director of Faith, Worship, and Ministry, the Rev. Dr. Eileen Scully. “It is particular time in the year when Christians, especially at the grassroots in cities, towns, and rural areas are encouraged to come together for common worship, prayer, study, mutual hospitality, fun and learning,” she said.

“As we pray for the common life and witness of the Christian churches, in response to Jesus’ prayer that we ‘all be one’ we are reminded of what unites us: God’s calling of us all, in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to serve God’s mission in the world around us.”

Interested in praying with and for other Christians during this special week? Contact your diocese to find events in your area, download the 2011 materials, or order a Canadian resource kit through the Canadian Council of Churches.

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