Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 18, 1999
Prayer for unity
Week of Prayer brings Christians together
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Christian leaders around the world have set aside the week of Jan. 24-31 to pray for Christian unity.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is marked worldwide with prayer services, Bible studies and other activities which bring the Christian community together.
Local leaders say the Week of Prayer strengthens the cause of ecumenism by gathering ordinary Christians of different churches for common action.
In Edmonton the celebration begins Jan. 17 with a city-wide ecumenical prayer service at All Saints Anglican Cathedral. It is organized by representatives of the Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, United and Presbyterian churches. God Dwells With Us is the week's theme.
Some parishes will come together during this week for a pilgrimage of churches, an ecumenical prayer service or an exchange of pulpits.
For the first time, Catholic schools are being encouraged to celebrate the week.
"(The Week of Prayer) is an opportunity for Christians who may not have ordinarily had a chance to work with and pray with Christians of other denominations to make the effort to do so," said Cathy Harvey, ecumenical coordinator of the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"Prayer is at the heart of ecumenism. Praying together will bring about the unity that God wants for us."
Rev. Susan Storey, who will preach at the Edmonton prayer service, said the Week of Prayer is a "good chance" for Christians to focus on unity. Ecumenism sometimes gets put on the back burner because churches are so busy with their own internal issues.
"One Church, one faith, one Baptism is really what we are called to," the Anglican pastor said from Vegreville. "The week is a chance to hold that up and to celebrate what we do have in common as churches, which far outweighs what divides us."
The Week of Prayer is "a way of encouraging us locally to look at our ecumenical commitment and quite simply to get to know our neighbours," Storey said. "It really is just a focus to what we really need to be doing all year."
Terri Reeves, ecumenical coordinator for the United Church, described the Week of Prayer as "a chance for us all to come together and to worship together."
"It's a time when people who sit in their own churches on Sunday can come together with people of similar beliefs and can celebrate the Christian faith," she said. "And it brings people together rather than feeling isolated within the walls of their own churches."
Lutheran pastor Paul Quist said the Week of Prayer strengthens the cause of unity by giving the faithful a visual symbol of churches working together. "It also gives people an opportunity to worship together in an ecumenical setting."
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is one of the most widely observed ecumenical events in the world.
Its roots can be traced back to the 19th century. Since 1965, resources for the Week of Prayer have been prepared by a joint committee of World Council of Churches. This committee chooses the theme and biblical text that serve as the focus for celebrations around the world.
A local planning group in Malaysia prepared the worship service being used internationally this year. An ecumenical committee of the Canadian Council of Churches adapts these materials for Canadian churches.