“Christian unity is already here. Our responsibility is to make it visible.”
What is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity?
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity occurs each year from January 18, The Confession of St. Peter, to January 25, The Conversion of St. Paul. It is a time when we are invited to look deeply into the heart of our faith, regardless of which denomination we express it through, and shine light onto our commonality.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in the chapel of the Atonement Franciscan Convent of the Episcopal Church in 1908. Others embraced the idea of an octave of prayer for our unity and the designated Week is now observed all over the world. To learn more about the basics of ecumenism and ecumenical dialogue, check out this article: How Much do You Know about Ecumenism – 7 Facts
What Can Churches Do?
1. Gather resources for ecumenical worship
The Graymoor Insitute is the most comprehensive and easy to navigate website providing everything you need to celebrate and observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I particularly like the Prayer Cards and the puzzles in the education materials as places to start.
For a one-page guide on how to plan and carry-out a simple ecumenical worship service, I have compiled this document: Ecumenical Liturgy Planning Tool
2. Connect with local churches
Talk with the churches in your town and invite them to plan shared times of prayer, music, and conversation. Be sure a meal is included. Make sure your activities include all ages.
3. Visit a nearby church
Even you are not able to plan an full event, you can still build connections through a simple trip. Visit each other’s churches, hear each other’s stories, and see each other’s sacred spaces.
4. Plan a future event with another church
Look at the ways your congregations are serving your community and consider whether events could be planned together. could you help us with …?” and “what could we help you with …?”
- Is there a field trip that you could take together sometime in the future?
- Perhaps to a play or concert in a nearby city with food and discussion afterwards.
- Maybe there is a big name theologian that you would all like to hear.
- Combining resources you might be able to bring them to you and welcome the public in.
The Fruits of Ecumenism and Christian Unity
Being intentional about praying, playing, and sharing stories during this week is a precious building block for deeper understanding and collaboration. Remember that our goal is to make our shared message of justice, hope, and joy tangible on our doorsteps and around the world.
Elizabeth Ring is a lifelong Episcopalian and student of theology. She recently retired from 26 years on the staff of the Diocese of Maine where she was part of the team that developed their Diocesan Resource Center and served as consultant to congregations around program and leadership development for lifelong learning.
The photo is of clerics gathered at an Ecumenical service in Boston during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014. Photo credit: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)