The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
(January 18–25, 2014)
Has Christ Been Divided?
(cf. 1 Corinthians 1:13)
The Church Unity Octave, a forerunner of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was developed by Father Paul Wattson, SA, at Graymoor in Garrison, New York, and was first observed at Graymoor from January 18-25, 1908. Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one” (John 17:21).
In 1966, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat (now Council) for Promoting Christian Unity began collaborating as a common international text for worldwide usage. Since 1968 these international texts, which are based on themes proposed by ecumenical groups around the world, have been developed, adapted and published for use in the United States by the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute. The theme of the 2014 Week of Prayer, ‘Has Christ been divided?’ was chosen and worked upon by the Christian Churches in Canada.
Chosen Theme: Has Christ Been Divided?
(cf. 1 Corinthians 1:13)
The 2014 theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity finds its origins in 1 Corinthians 1:1-17. The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the original days of the feasts of the Chair of St. Peter (January 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25) , and therefore have a symbolic significance. The initial work on the theme for this year’s week of prayer material was prepared by a group of representatives from different parts of Canada, brought together at the invitation of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism. The texts were approved at a meeting of the International Committee composed of members of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting of Christian Unity. Being faithful to Christ’s desire for the unity of his disciples, has led to this year’s theme which focuses on Saint Paul’s provocative question in 1 Corinthians: “Has Christ Been Divided?” We continue to be divided by doctrine, polity, and practice, and to maintain our own religious identity, yet our pilgrimage towards unity continues under God’s guidance.
Graymoor, Garrison, NY and Local Community
Reported by Fr. John J. Keane, SA
The 2014 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at Graymoor (January 18 to 25) was a time of cold arctic winds, snow and ice. Braving the severe weather, Sisters and Friars of the Atonement together with a number of friends, averaging about 50 people, gathered each evening. One friar declared: “The very fact that we came together to pray and to meditate about Christian Unity in the spirit of our Founders, Mother Lurana White and Father Paul Wattson, is what counts even though the elements do not cooperate.”
Ministers from the following churches joined us: the Rev. Ken Ardrey of the Church of the Nazarene, Fishkill, NY; the Rev. Anthony Stephens of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Croton on Hudson, NY; the Rev. Jay Edward Lewis of the Baptist Church, Newburgh, NY, and the Rev. Samuel Sanchez of the Church of the Assembly of God, Peekskill, NY, all gave us their insights regarding the theme chosen by the Christian Churches in Canada –“Has Christ Been Divided?”
To complete the Week of Prayer, one Atonement Sister, Sr. Lorelei Fuchs, SA, and two Atonement Friars, Fr. Emil Tomaskovic, SA, and Fr. Wilfred Tyrrell, SA, shared their ideas about the scandal of division that continues to exist among the Christian Churches. Special thanks to Rev. Francis J. Samoylo the Pastor of St. Columbanus Parish Church in Cortland Manor, NY for hosting the service on January 19.
One evening, it snowed so hard that the Minister from the Presbyterian Church in Cold Spring, NY, the Rev. Leslie Mott, could not come. This service has been postponed until Friday, March 7, 2014, 6:30 PM, in St. Francis Convent Chapel, Graymoor. It is significant that on this day each year, an international organization, Church Women United, prays for the unity of the Christian Churches in 170 countries throughout the world.
The talks by the Reverend Ardrey, Reverend Sanchez and the Fr. Tyrrell are availble for download. Other talks can be found in the journal of Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Ecumenical Trends.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was formally opened Sunday, January 19 with Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Brother Bill Martyn, SA and the members of the Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Commission were present.
On January 23 there was a Service of Prayer for Christian Unity were all were invited to join together for a rare opportunity for the many Christian Traditions in the Durham area to gather in one place to worship and pray for visible unity in Christ's body. The service was held at Resurrection United Methodist Church where clergy from the Lutheran, Episcopal, Church of Christ (Disciples), United Church of Christ, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Baptist and Roman Catholic Churches join together to lead the service.
One of the highlights was the reflection given by the Dean of the Duke Divinity School, the Rev. Dr. Richard Hays. Dean Hays began his reflection saying: 'I'm pleased to see that so many of you have turned out on this terrible frigid evening when the forecast low temperature is 11 degrees. I want to begin with a small word of confession. When I was first invited to be the preacher for this service of Christian unity, someone asked me if I thought there was any real prospect of the many divided Christian groups and denominations coming together in unity. And in a burst of cynical realism, I replied, "Yes: when Hell freezes over."
The planning committee began meeting in August to prayerfully prepare this Service of Prayer for Christian Unity. It was a committee which grew together and the fruit of this was the service itself. Brother Bill Martyn, SA first organized this group for the 2012 observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year's group has been joined by several new members.
Another highlight of this service was the participatory foot washing. This was an element suggested by the Mennonite member of the planning committee. Foot washing is done to recall Christ's servant hood; some Mennonite churches do it regularly while others do not. It was very impressive to see those gathered for prayer washing each other's feet. It was done quite simply, the first person who had their feet washed would was the other person's feet until everyone's feet were washed.
The music was supplied by the various churches joining in as one. It set the tone for a joy filled service. For the most part we followed the service which was prepared by the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute.
For the Blessing and Sending Forth all the clergy present stood facing the assembly and said together the prayers of blessing.
A reception was held after the service, and it was nice to see that most people stayed and talked about the service and what it meant to them.
On January 24 there was Evening Prayer for Unity at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh. The Most Rev. Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh was the presider, the Rev. John M. Richardson, Regional Minister, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gave the reflection and the Rev. George Reed, Director of the North Carolina Council of Churches did the readings.
Rev. James Gardiner, SA, participated in the The Evening Prayer for Christian Unity, which inaugurated the 2014 Week of Prayer at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC. About 100 people, including John Borelli, John Ford, CSC, Tom Ryan, CSP, and Tom Stransky, CSP, participated. Father Larry Dunham, OFM, guardian of the monastery, presided. Bishop Richard Graham of the Metropolitan Washington, DC, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Synod, preached, and the choir from the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill sang. Also in attendance were two local Lutheran pastors, the pastor and several parishioner of the French-speaking Catholic parish in northwest DC (which, for several years, has been engaged in a local dialog with French-speaking Protestants in DC), four Atonement Sisters from the Washington Retreat House, several friars from Holy Name College in Silver Spring, MD, and three Paulist novices. The service concluded with an anthem written by Martin Luther and set to music by Paul Leavitt, director of the Reformation Church choir.
Father Damian McPherson, SA, who is Director, Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs for the Toronto, Ontario Diocese, helped to organize a city-wide Celebration for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity hosted by His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins at St. Paul's Basilica in Toronto on January 26. The Cardinal was joined by Anglican Archbishop Colin Johnson, Slovak Catholic Bishop John Pazak, Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, Canada's first National Indigenous bishop, and other city-wide religious leaders.
TThe Centro Pro Unione sponsors an afternoon of reflection and prayer each year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity together with the Lay Center at Foyer Unitas and the Vincent Pallotti Centre. One of the Friars' affiliates, retired Archbishop Donald Reece of Kingston, Jamaica, tossed us an interesting salad, a "Mixed Salad Ecumenism". This curious title allowed Archbishop Reece to explore the socio-cultural, racial and religious diversity in the Caribbean that produced what he called a mixed salad. This reality has its advantages and its challenges especially for ecumenism in the area. Reece made the point that what obtains now in the Caribbean is a "dialogue of love," the "bottoms –up" approach to ecumenism. Lacking is a "dialogue of truth," that challenges all ecumenists to critique their respective expressions of Christian doctrine in light of the scriptures in which the articles of the Creed are rooted, and to attempt a common, unambiguous explanation of the said articles in light of the contemporary situation that seeks relevance, especially among the younger generation. The question he posed "is there a future?" is answered by a qualified yes. However, this is not possible without both the dialogue of love and the dialogue of truth.
The lecture was followed by an ecumenical prayer vigil of the Word presided over by the Scots Presbyterian minister in Rome, Rev. Willie McCulloch with Rev. Ken Howcroft as preacher from the Methodist Church. Many of the participants for the afternoon program were students and professors from the various universities as well as members of the diplomatic corps and members of some of the Roman curial offices. One of the values that the Friars promote in all of their activities at the ecumenical center is that of trying to create bonds of friendship where there is the freedom to share perspective and relate on a human level with one another in spite of differences that may exist. All of our programs are followed by a moment of sharing in a fraternal agape with a glass of wine and some light refreshments. It is in these moments of sharing that people connect or even re-connect. In this context what Archbishop Reece observed about the need for a dialogue both of love and of truth becomes a little bit easier. In spite oof the rainy weather we had an overflow gathering of the kind of diversity that might be called "a mixed salad"!
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was celebrated at several interfaith events A daily Mass for Christian Unity took place at the Catholic Tsurumi Church where on the 19th the Catholic Tsurumi Church and Protestant Church in Tsurumi area prayed for Christian Unity. Also on the 19th the Catholic Yokohama diocese and Anglican Church of Yokohama area prayed for Christian Unity in the Catholic Fujisawa Church.
E-mail The Week of Prayer at the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute for more information.