Churches worldwide observe ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,' focus on Deuteronomy 16:20

Ecumenical delegates at 50 years jubilee of Vatican Synod: From left: Methodist, Anglican, Estonian-Orthodox, Evangelical, Lutheran. Vatican City, October 17, 2015.
Ecumenical delegates at 50 years jubilee of Vatican Synod: From left: Methodist, Anglican, Estonian-Orthodox, Evangelical, Lutheran. Vatican City, October 17, 2015. | (Photo: Thomas Schirrmacher)

Churches worldwide are planning to observe the annual “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” starting on Friday to promote ecumenical practices.

First started in the early 1900s, the Week of Prayer takes place Jan. 18-25, between the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul on the liturgical calendar.

It features worship materials, such as liturgy, developed in cooperation between the International Committee of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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The Garrison, New York-based Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute helps to develop, publish, and disseminate these materials for use in North America and has done so since 1968.

Fr. Tom Orians, SA, associate director of the institute, told The Christian Post that this year’s theme is "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,” taken from Deuteronomy 16:20.

“This year’s theme, which finds its origins in Deuteronomy, was chosen for its powerful message of promoting truth, equality and unity,” Orians said.

“It was prepared by a group of representatives from different parts of Indonesia, including the Communion of Churches in Indonesia and the Indonesian Catholic Bishops’ Conference who felt it spoke powerfully to their situation and needs, and recognized this common need throughout the world.”

Orians also noted that this year “orders are increasing substantially” for the materials used by churches observing the Week of Prayer.

“We can say that hundreds of churches from the diverse Christian community across North America are participating this year, among them those from the Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, and Catholic traditions,” Orians added.

“By annually observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Christians around the world move toward the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper ‘that they all may be one.’”  

Margaret Rose, Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Collaboration with The Episcopal Church, told CP that the denomination “has always been deeply involved in” the Week of Prayer, seeing in it “the hope of the unity of the Church.”

“What we have done in the last few years is that we always, from the churchwide office, send out resources for ecumenical officers and to all the dioceses and churches in the hope that they will do some of these prayers, do some of the scripture study,” said Rose.

“Our job is to be a bridge for the resources that are offered to make sure that our people know about that in terms of prayer and liturgy.”

Rose also told CP that churches have been known to engage in diverse ways of observing the Week of Prayer, including not only “joint church services” but also volunteer projects.

“I think more recently, there’s been a sense that our unity is often made even deeper by the relationships we have with one another,” continued Rose.

“And so oftentimes there will be places that will say ‘let’s build a habit house together,’ ‘let’s work together on a soup kitchen.’ So that it’s something that actually sends people outside the walls of the churches.”

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