PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN UNITY
THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
and throughout the year 2010
You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:48)
Jointly prepared and published by
The scripture quotations contained herein are from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989, 1995, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used with permission. All rights reserved
To those organizing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
The search for unity: throughout the year
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 days between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, and therefore have a symbolic significance. In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the week of prayer, for example around Pentecost (which was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the church. Mindful of this flexibility concerning the date, we encourage you to understand the material presented here as an invitation to find opportunities throughout the whole year to express the degree of communion which the churches have already received, and to pray together for that full unity which is Christ’s will.
Adapting the text
This material is offered with the understanding that, whenever possible, it will be adapted for use at the local level. In doing this, account must be taken of local liturgical and devotional practice, and of the whole social and cultural context. Such adaptation should normally take place ecumenically. In some places ecumenical structures are already set up for adapting the material. In other places, we hope that the need to adapt it will be a stimulus to creating such structures.
Using the Week of Prayer material
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
44Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Introduction to the theme for the year 2010
During the past century reconciliation between Christians has taken on very different forms. Spiritual ecumenism has shown how important prayer is for Christian unity. Great energy has been put into theological research which has led to a large number of doctrinal accords. Practical cooperation between churches in the social field has given birth to fruitful initiatives. Alongside these major accomplishments, the question of mission has had a particular place. It is even generally held that the 1910 World Mission Conference in Edinburgh marked the beginnings of the modern ecumenical movement.
Mission and Unity
Not everyone naturally makes the link between missionary endeavour and the desire for Christian Unity. Yet surely the missionary commitment of the church must go hand in had with its ecumenical commitment? Because of our baptism we are already one body and we are called to live in communion. God has made us brothers and sisters in Christ. Is not this the fundamental witness that we are called to?
Historically the fact that the question of Christian unity was often first raised by missionaries was for practical reasons. This was often simply so as to avoid unnecessary competition in the face of enormous human and material need. The territory to be evangelized was shared out and occasionally attempts were made to go further than having activities running in parallel to one another and to favour some common projects. Missionaries from different churches might for example combine their resources to undertake a new translation of the Bible and this cooperation in the service of the Word of God led to reflections on the divisions between Christians.
Without denying the rivalries that existed between missionaries sent by different churches, it should also be recognized that those who were first in the mission field were also the first to recognize the tragedy of Christian division. Europe had got used to divisions between churches but the scandal of disunity seemed dreadful to missionaries who were announcing the gospel to people who had known nothing of Christ until then. Of course the different church divisions which have marked Christian history did have theological reasons, but they were also marked by the context (historical, political, intellectual …) which gave birth to them. Could it be justified to export these divisions to peoples who were discovering Christ?
In the midst their fresh beginnings the new local churches could hardly fail to notice the gap between the message of love which they wanted to live out and the actual separation between Christ's disciples. How can you make others understand the reconciliation offered in Jesus Christ if the baptised themselves ignore or fight one another? How could Christian groups who lived in mutual hostility preach one Lord, one faith and one baptism in a credible way?
There was, then, no lack of ecumenical questions for the participants at the Edinburgh Conference of 1910.
The Edinburgh Mission Conference of 1910
The official delegates of Protestant mission societies from the different branches of Protestantism and Anglicanism, joined by an Orthodox guest, met during the summer of 1910 in the Scottish capital. The Conference which was not a decision-making gathering had no other aim than to help missionaries to forge a common spirit and coordinate their work.
Only those missionary societies working to announce the gospel in new places where Christ had not yet been made known were present. Thus those societies working in Latin America or the Middle East where the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches had already been for a long time, were not invited.
In 1910 the Scottish ecclesial landscape was beginning to diversify and the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches once more enjoyed a more important role. Edinburgh was chosen as the place for the meeting because of its intellectual and cultural vitality. The fame of its theologians and church leaders also encouraged this choice. Scottish Protestant churches were also particularly active in mission and had a reputation for paying attention to local cultures.
The Christian Churches in Scotland Today
To honour this important stage in the history of the ecumenical movement it was natural for the promoters of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – The Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity - to invite the Scottish churches to prepare the 2010 Week of Prayer at the same time as they were actively involved in preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the 1910 Conference on the theme “Witnessing to Christ today”. In response these churches suggested as the theme “You are witnesses of these things”. (Luke 24:48)
The Biblical Theme: You are Witnesses of These Things
In the ecumenical movement we have often meditated on Jesus' final discourse before his death. In this final testament the importance of the unity of Christ's disciples is emphasized: “That all may be one ... so that the world may believe.” (John 17:21)
This year the churches of Scotland have made the original choice of inviting us to listen to Christ's final discourse before his ascension, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48). It is on these final words of Christ that we shall reflect each day.
During the 2010 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we are invited to follow the whole of chapter 24 of Luke's gospel. Whether it be the terrified women at the tomb, the two discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus or the eleven disciples overtaken by doubt and fear, all who together encounter the Risen Christ are sent on mission: “You are witness of these things”. This mission of the Church is given by Christ and cannot be appropriated by anyone. It is the community of those who have been reconciled with God and in God, and who can witness to the truth of the power of salvation in Jesus Christ.
We sense that Mary Magdalene, Peter or the two Emmaus disciples will not witness in the same way. Yet it will be the victory of Jesus over death that all will place at the heart of their witness. The personal encounter with the risen One has radically changed their lives and in its uniqueness for each one of them one thing becomes imperative: “You are witnesses of these things.” Their story will accentuate different things, sometimes dissent may arise between them about what faithfulness to Christ requires, and yet all will work to announce the Good News.
The Eight Days
During the 2010 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we will reflect each day on chapter 24 of Luke's gospel stopping at the questions which it asks: Jesus' questions to his disciples; the questions the apostles ask of Christ.
Each of these questions allows us to highlight a particular way of witnessing to the Risen One. Each of them invites us to think about our situation of church division and about how, concretely, we can remedy that. We are already witnesses and we need to become better witnesses. How?
by praising the One who gives us the gift of life and resurrection (Day 1)
Would our witness not be more faithful to the gospel of Christ in each of these eight aspects if we witnessed together?
The one hundredth anniversary of the Mission Conference which took place in the City a century earlier will be marked in June 2010 (www.edinburgh2010.org). The organisers want this meeting to be a time of thanksgiving for the progress in mission God has made possible. They have also given an important place to prayer, to offering to Christ the witness which churches will have to bear together during the 21st century.
This meeting should also allow those working in the mission field for a long time and representatives from more recent currents to share their perspectives. Members of different church traditions will also be able to discuss their mission practice.
The world has changed a lot since 1910 and once more mission must be thought about anew. Secularisation and de-Christianization, new means of communication, interconfessional relations, interreligious dialogue ... there are many issues to discuss. While everyone may agree on the need for Christ's disciples to witness to him, it is still difficult to arrive at a common understanding of what mission needs to be today. Within individual churches there is no lack of discussion. Would this discussion not benefit from being held by all of the churches together?
1910 ... 2010: Christians have at heart a similar sense of urgency: for our humanity wounded by division the gospel is not a luxury; the gospel cannot be proclaimed by discordant voices.
In Christ, those filled with hatred can find the path of reconciliation. In Christ those whom everything divides can find the joy of living as brothers and sisters ... You are witnesses of these things.
The preparation of the material
The initial work leading to the publication of this booklet was done by a Scottish ecumenical group brought together by Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) at the invitation of the Catholic Bishops’ conference. We particularly want to thank all of those who contributed:
Mr Andrew Barr (Episcopal Church of Scotland)
The texts proposed here were finalized during the meeting of the international preparatory group nominated by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. The group met at Scotus College in Glasgow, Scotland’s national Roman Catholic seminary. We are particularly grateful to the seminary’s Rector the very Rev. William McFadden, to the seminarians and the whole staff for their warm welcome, their availability and the prayerful way in which they accompanied our work. Finally a special word of thanks to the Rev. Lindsay Sanderson (ACTS Assistant General Secretary) for having revised the texts together with the Rev. McFadden, for the times of common prayer and the exchanges organized with representatives of the various Christian churches of Scotland, as well as the overall preparation of the meeting.
Introduction to the Ecumenical Worship Service
“You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:48)
The theme for the 2010 week of prayer for Christian Unity is “You are witnesses of these things.”. It comes from chapter 24 of Luke’s gospel which is the central focus of this service. This is also the theme which Scottish Christians have chosen to celebrate the centenary of the Edinburgh Mission Conference.
In 1910 members of the meeting in Edinburgh heard prophetic witness as to how divisions between Christians not only weaken missionary effectiveness, but also the Church and body of Christ and its mission.
In 2010 the Christians of Scotland invite ecumenical gatherings to read aloud the whole of this chapter of Luke. Thus preaching, thanksgiving, intercession and the celebration of being sent out in the name of the gospel can all be fully developed. This will lead to an appreciation of the resurrection of Christ as the source of ecclesial communion, of being sent out in mission, of the intrinsic link between mission and unity and, therefore, of the continual need to renew our commitment to Christian unity.
It was precisely this reciprocal demand for evangelism and for ecumenism that the pioneers of the ecumenical movement of the 20th century emphasized with such faith, strength and clarity.
Order of service
The order of service is deliberately very simple. This choice was made in order to help with adapting it to local situations and to allow Christians from all traditions to come together without difficulty to pray while respecting their diversity. It is quite possible to expand a part of the service. The simplicity of the structure – (I) gathering, (II) celebration of the Word of God, (III) intercessions, (IV) sending – means that congregations which prefer freer forms of worship and spontaneous prayer should also be able to use the material.
Opening hymn. During the singing of this hymn, the Bible or the book of the gospels is
In the words of welcome the person presiding welcomes all communities and leaders who are attending.
The assembly is then invited to give thanks to God for the resurrection of his son Jesus Christ and to ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit to renew Christian mission and unity in the spirit of the Edinburgh call of 1910 (see also the general introduction and the passage above).
The opening prayer can also be chosen from the anthology in the appendix.
II) Proclamation of Luke 24
The Gospel hymn of praise. There are a variety to choose from: hymns to the risen Christ, a gloria, an alleluia in a more developed form, a chant or responsive paschal Psalm or one which evokes the sending out of the witnesses of the resurrection.
Reading Luke 24 in full is recommended for the proclamation of the gospel.
This can be done by one reader or by several: the narrator, the voice of Christ, the angels, the Emmaus disciples and the Jerusalem disciples.
At verse 34 a dialogue with the congregation is possible:
Reader: It’s true the Lord is risen and he appeared to Simon.
Congregation: It’s true! Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!
- Another possibility is to sing a verse of praise between the reading of the three sections of the chapter: The Easter message at the tomb (v.1-12); appearing to the disciples on the way to Emmaus (v.13-35); appearing to the eleven (v.36-53). Other expressions of praise are also possible, such as applauding after each appearance by the risen one as done in the Chaldeen church.
- In particular with children or young people mime or other forms of theatre could be used.
- It might also be possible to use icons, pictures or video …
Before and following the sermon the time given to singing, music and silence needs to be defined.
III) Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession
These are inspired by the material prepared for the each day of the week of prayer. They invoke the name of the Lord and celebrate God in his generosity and hospitality towards us manifested in Jesus Christ. They are at once prayers of supplication and a request for God’s consecration of witnesses to the Gospel, united by one faith and one baptism, and by the common witness of the church which is undivided in its hope.
A prayer by a Scottish Christian is proposed as a prayer of commitment. It expresses our desire to ask for God’s blessing for the present and future, both of the ecumenical movement and of evangelism. In the year 2010 as we approach a new “Edinburgh commitment”, may our gatherings for prayer hear the more than ever contemporary call to evangelize in unity: “ May we be one, that the world may believe”, and may our response to Christ’s call to bear united witness to his resurrection be strengthened.
Using the material for prayer in other circumstances
This service outline could also be used for a joint service to mark Easter in 2010 or in those coming years when Christians celebrate Easter on the same date. (4 April 2010, 24 April 2011, 20 April 2014, 16 April 2017). The material can also be used for worship in local congregations.
Ecumenical Worship Service
L. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope
of your calling…”
L. “It is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on
the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed
in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem…”
Words of welcome
O risen Christ,
II) Celebration of the Word of God
Sung acclamation of the gospel
Reading of the whole of chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke
L. Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to
you.” Do not look upon our sin but on the faith of your church. To fulfil your
will, grant this peace to your church and lead it to perfect unity, you who live
and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
L. The peace of the Lord be always with you.
L. The peace of the Lord be always with you
L. Christ is risen.
The Nicene-Constantinople creed (without the filioque)
Offering and hymn
Creator and saviour God, we praise you for all our different communities who together want to confess, through word and deed, their faith in the risen Christ, who brings us life.
May we so progress in our ecumenical commitment that we become more united both in our thanksgiving for creation and in our concerted action to uphold life.
Kyrie eleison (or an alternative sung response)
God, you have made yourself known to us in our story, we give you thanks for being with us and for having given us your Son to reveal your love and share your glory.
Guide the steps of all who bear witness to the gospel towards perfect unity, in careful and patient listening to cultures and people’s history.
God, you who never abandon us, we give you thanks for the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus with the risen Christ.
Grant that we may feel Christ’s presence with us on our journey. Warm our hearts and open our understanding, that we may bear witness to your active presence in the power of his resurrection.
God, from whom every perfect gift comes, we give you thanks that from the dawn of time from generation to generation you have never ceased to awaken that cloud of witnesses which transmitted the faith of the apostles. (Saint Ninian, Saint Columbus … - at this point each congregation can mention local evangelists and martyrs).
We pray that we may be faithful to this faith we have been entrusted with, and creative, so as together to open up new paths of the gospel.
God, of compassion, we give you thanks because you have reconciled the world through the cross of your Son.
Increase our faith, that it may give our churches and each of us, with Christ and following his example, the strength always to stand more effectively alongside people in their lives, suffering and death.
God, we put our hope in you and praise you for Jesus’ promise, “See, I am with you always even unto the end of time.”
You see the doubts which beset our hearts on the path to Christian unity. Following the example of the ecumenical pioneers of the Edinburgh conference of 1910, give us courage to denounce together our current fears and clarity to regain trust in 2010 on the path to the fulfilment of your will.
The Lord’s prayer
Prayer of commitment
L. Let us pray.
(ACTS commitment. Taken from the Inaugural Service
L. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
L. The Lord who conquered darkness with light,
Or another blessing.
L. Today the risen Christ says to us, “As the Father sent me, so I send you”.
L. We have been told the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus, “We are the
witnesses of these things”. Go then in the peace of Christ. Alleluia!
Biblical reflections and prayers for the ‘eight days’
Our journey of Christian unity is firmly rooted in our common belief that in the
resurrection of Jesus Christ
The reading from the book of Genesis reminds us of the creative power and energy of God. It is this power and energy that St Paul encounters in experiencing Jesus’ resurrection.
He challenges the people of Corinth to put their total trust in the Risen Lord and his offer of new life.
The psalm continues this theme as it proclaims the glory of God’s creation.
Our gospel passage challenges us to look for new life in the face of a culture of death that our world frequently presents to us. It encourages us to trust in Jesus’ power, and so to experience life and healing.
Today, we thank God for all that shows God’s love for us: for all of creation; for brothers and sisters in all parts of the world; for communion in love, for forgiveness and healing and for life eternal.
God our creator, we praise you for all who give witness to their faith by their words and actions. In living life to the full we encounter your loving presence in the many experiences you offer us. May our common witness of celebrating life unite us in blessing you, the author of all life.
1. To what extent do your own witness
and the witness of your church celebrate life?
Sharing our stories is a powerful way in which we give witness to our faith in God. Listening to one another with respect and consideration allows us to encounter God in the very person with whom we are sharing.
The reading from Jeremiah offers us a powerful witness of God’s call to the prophet. He is to share what he has received, and so allow God’s Word to be heard and lived out.
This call to proclaim God’s Word is also experienced by the disciples in the early Church, as witnessed to in the reading from Acts.
Our psalm allows us to sing to God with a spirit of praise and thanksgiving.
Today’s gospel passage presents a Jesus who enlightens our blindness and dispels our disillusionment. He helps us to understand our stories within the one unfolding plan of God.
During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we listen to the faith stories of other Christians in order to encounter God in the variety of ways God’s very self is revealed to us. We are aware also that we can share with others through the virtual reality of technology. Modern means of communication can help us share more widely, and so create a community that is broader and more extensive than the purely physical.
In listening with attentiveness we grow in faith and love. In spite of the diversity of our personal and collective witness, we find ourselves intertwined in the one story of God’s love for us revealed in Jesus Christ.
God of history, we thank you for all who have shared their story of faith with us and so have given witness to your presence in their lives. We praise you for the variety of our stories both as individuals and churches. In these stories we see the unfolding of the one story of Jesus Christ. We pray for the courage and the conviction to share our faith with those with whom we come into contact, and so allow the message of your Word to spread to all.
1. Are you “gossiping the Gospel” or
Growing in faith is a complex journey. Many people in our world today lead busy lives and have lots of pressures and responsibilities. It is easy to miss God’s revealing love to us in our everyday life and experiences. The more pressure and activity we surround ourselves with, then the greater the possibility of overlooking what is in fact before our very eyes. Like the two disciples in the gospel, we sometimes think we know what is real, and try to explain our view to others, yet we are not aware of the full truth. In our world today we are invited to be aware of God in the surprising and unlikely events of life.
In our Old Testament reading, we hear how God calls and invites Samuel to bear witness. Samuel first of all has to hear this word. Hearing requires an open disposition and a willingness to listen to God.
This desire to hear God’s Word is also experienced by both Philip and the Ethiopian in the reading from Acts. They witness to their faith by responding to what is asked of them at that precise moment in time. They listen attentively and respond accordingly.
The psalm of the Good Shepherd reflects the quiet trust of the one who is aware of the tender care of God, Who gathers the flock and leads them to green pastures.
During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we seek to be aware of God in our everyday events and experiences. We meet people who are familiar and others who are strangers. In these encounters we learn from each other’s spiritual experiences and so get a new view of God’s reality. This awareness of God’s presence challenges us to work for Christian unity.
Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd, You encounter us and remain with us in everyday life. We pray for the grace to be aware of all you do for us. We ask that you prepare us to be open to all you offer us and bring us together in one flock.
1. When have you been aware of God’s
presence in your life?
We have an enormous debt of gratitude to those whose faith has provided the foundation for our Christian lives today. Numerous men and women through their prayer, witness and worship have ensured that the faith is handed down to the next generations. In Scotland we have an impressive Christian history: Saint Ninian in the 4th century, Saint Columbus in the 6th century and the many Celtic saints whose faith was rooted in the love of God and wonder at his creation. The faith of Scottish people can also be seen in the very important role played in the diffusion of the Reformation of the 16th century and the way in which this spirit has been firmly maintained since then.
Today’s readings affirm the importance of supporting the community of faith in order to ensure the dissemination of the Word of God. The passage from Deuteronomy gives us the beautiful prayer of our Jewish sisters and brothers, who every day use these words to praise God. The Psalm invites us to bear witness through praise for what we have received as believers, so that our faith may be shown through glorifying and thanksgiving. The extract from Acts reveals a community united in faith and charity. The gospel passage shows us Jesus as the centre of what we have received in faith.
As we unite with our Christian brothers and sisters in praying for unity during this week, we welcome the rich variety of our Christian heritage. We pray that awareness of our common heritage may unite us more closely as we progress in faith.
Lord God, we give you thanks for all the people and communities who have communicated the message of the Good News to us, and thus given us a solid foundation for our faith today. We pray that we too may together bear witness to our faith, so that others may know you and place their trust in the truth of salvation offered in Jesus Christ for the life of the world.
1. Who inspired you in your faith?
In recent years two events which took place in Scotland led to this small country suddenly becoming the centre of attention of the world’s media. The bomb attack on the plane above Lockerbie and the massacre of children in Dunblane school brought attention to the nation which will always remember these terrible losses of human life. The two events caused suffering and unimaginable anguish to a large number of people and the consequences were felt well beyond the physical borders of the two places. Innocent people met their death in horrifying circumstances.
The reality of suffering is something that the Prophet Isaiah speaks about forcefully in today’s text, in which he reminds us that God is never resigned to seeing humanity suffer. In response the Psalm proclaims the trust that believers must maintain in their Saviour.
The letter to the Romans proclaims the certainty that love is always strongest and that suffering and sorrow will never prevail. For before offering the resurrection to the world, Christ entered into a terrible death and into the dark depths of the tomb so as to be completely with us at our very lowest ebb.
In the Lord’s footsteps, Christians who seek full unity show their solidarity to those amongst them who are confronted in their lives with tragic situations of suffering, by confessing that love is stronger than death. And that it was from the extreme humiliation of the tomb that resurrection came like a new sun for humanity; a clamouring annunciation of life, forgiveness and immortality.
God our Father, look with compassion on our situations of poverty, suffering, sin and death, we ask you for forgiveness, healing, comfort and support in our ordeals.
We give you thanks for all who manage to see light in their affliction.
May your divine Spirit teach us the greatness of your compassion and help us stand alongside our sisters and brothers in difficulty. Filled with its blessings, may we in unity proclaim and share with the world the victory of your Son who lives for ever.
1. How can you show empathy to those
who suffer and are in difficulties?
Christians encounter God’s Word in a privileged way through reading the Sacred Scriptures and celebrating the sacraments. In faithfully listening to the proclamation of Holy Scripture, and by prayerfully reading the various books of the Bible, they open their hearts and minds to receive the very Word of God. Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to make them understand the Word of God, and to guide them in all truth.
Historically, Christians have been divided in reading and understanding the Word of God. They often used the Bible to emphasize their disagreement rather than to find ways for reconciliation. Fortunately, in recent times, in their search for unity, Sacred Scripture has brought Christians closer to one another. Shared Bible study has become a major means of growing together among them. The Christian journey that we celebrate during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is one that is firmly rooted in our shared listening to God’s Word, trying together to understand and to live it.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s Word powerfully proclaimed is indeed effective and operative. It does not return to God empty but succeeds in the purpose for which He sent it. This message is repeated in the words addressed to Timothy, as he is directed to believe in the efficacy of the Scriptures by which the faithful are equipped for every good work.
Our psalm gives praise for God ‘s words and statutes and implores God to give understanding, that we may keep the Holy Law with our whole heart.
During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we pray that all Christians may enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s wonderful revelation as it comes to us in Holy Scripture. We beseech the Holy Spirit to help us better comprehend the Word of God and to direct us on our common journey of faith until we will all be gathered again around the one table of the Lord.
God, we praise and thank you for your saving Word as it reaches out to us through the Sacred Scriptures. We thank you too for the brothers and sisters with whom we share your Word and discover together the abundance of Your love. We pray for the light of the Holy Spirit, so that Your Word may lead and direct us in our quest for greater unity.
1. What are the passages of Scripture
that mean most to you?
During their journey in life and faith, all Christians experience moments of doubt. When Christians cannot recognise the presence of the risen Christ, being together sometimes makes their doubts even heavier, rather than lighter.
The challenge faced by Christians is to continue to believe that even when they do not see or feel God, God remains with them. The virtues of faith, hope and trust allow them to give witness that their faith goes beyond their own possibilities.
The character Job gives us an example of someone who faced difficult trials and tribulations and even argued with God. In faith and hope however, he believed that God would remain on his side. This reliance and conviction is also shown by the actions of Peter and John in the account with the lame man as told in Acts. Their belief in the Name of Jesus allows them to witness powerfully to all who were present.
Today’s psalm is a prayer reflecting our deep desire for God’s steadfast love.
Our meeting during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity allows our communities to grow in shared faith, hope and love. Webear witness to God’s steadfast love toall people, and God’s faithfulness to the one church we are called to be.
The more we witness together, the stronger our message will be.
God of hope, share Your vision of the one church with us, and overcome our doubts. Increase our faith in your presence, that all who profess belief in you may worship together in spirit and in truth. We especially pray for all who are in doubt right now, or whose lives are spent in the shadow of danger and fear. Be with them and give them your consoling presence.
1. How do you deal with your own fears
Today, electronic communication has made us neighbours in one small and overloaded planet. As in the time of Luke, many peoples and communities have had to leave their homes, wandering and journeying to strange lands. People of the world’s great faiths have arrived bringing new beliefs and cultures to our communities.
In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we recognise in our shared journey towards unity the hospitality and companionship of Christians of all churches. Christ also calls us both to offer and to receive the hospitality of the stranger who has become our neighbour. Surely, if we cannot see Christ in the other, then we cannot see Christ at all.
The story in Genesis describes how Abraham receives God in opening his house and offering hospitality to strangers.
The God of all creation also stands with the prisoner, the blind, the stranger. Our psalm is an offering of praise for God’s everlasting faithfulness and all that God has done for us.
The text from Romans reminds us that the kingdom of God comes about through justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The resurrected Christ brings his disciples together, eats with them and they recognise him again. He reminds them of what the scriptures said about him and explains what they did not understand before. Thus, he frees them from their doubts and fears and sends them out to become witnesses of these things. In creating this space for encounter with him he enables them to receive his peace, that implies justice for the oppressed, care for the hungry and the mutual up-building as the gifts of the new world of the resurrection. Christians throughout history have found the risen Lord as they have served others and been served by others in faith, so we too can encounter Christ when we share our lives and our gifts.
God of love, You have shown us your hospitality in Christ. We acknowledge that through sharing our gifts with all we meet you. Give us the grace that we may become one on our journey together and recognise you in one another. In welcoming the stranger in your name may we become witnesses to your hospitality and your justice.
1. To what extent is the country in
which you live hospitable to the stranger?
Additional worship resources from Scotland
Holy Spirit of Freedom
as the poor long
As you journeyed with the two who travelled the Emmaus Road
Prayer/Meditation of Witness
This reflective piece uses symbols and movement to support universal understanding in worship gatherings where there is more than one native language/tongue spoken and/or where there is desire to include those with learning difficulties. It may be experienced as a whole or broken up into sections throughout a service of worship.
The symbols: Large stone, story book with pictures/photographs, globe, creed or other statement of faith, cross/crucifix, Bible, large question mark on card, loaf of bread. The symbols are brought forward at the appropriate section of prayer and placed in a prominent position where all can see – this may be on table/altar placed at front or centre of gathering. Symbols could also be projected on to screen/wall using PowerPoint presentation.
Be the great God between your shoulders
Scotland’s Ecumenical Context.
From 1910 to 2010
Edinburgh 1910 saw the birth of the modern ecumenical movement, but why did it happen in Edinburgh? Scotland, intellectually and culturally, had a strong tradition of internationalism stretching right back to the Celtic missions. This international perspective was promoted by leading Scots theologians and church leaders. This was coupled with the strong missionary ethos of 19th century Scottish Protestantism, which in addition to evangelism was concerned with modifying the economic imperial expansion of the British empire. This engagement in mission led to the churches being willing to support a World Mission Conference, rather than leave it to mission agencies. Finally Scotland was experiencing rapid change in both church and society which stimulated a sense of wider vision in the churches.
In 2000, John Pobee (Ghana) visited Scotland and challenged the Christian leaders to mark the centenary of 1910. Over the next few years an ever-widening circle of mission thinkers and activists recognised that 2010 was an occasion for great potential and that collaborative action was required. In 2005 an international gathering was held in Edinburgh from which key themes for mission in the 21st century emerged. These include foundations for mission; mission in an interfaith context; mission and its relationships to post-modernity and power; forms of missionary engagement; theological education; contemporary Christian communities; mission and unity and mission spirituality.
It was also recognised that a focal point to the centenary was required and this will be held in Edinburgh from 2-6 June 2010. The work of Edinburgh 2010 is co-ordinated through its website www.edinburgh2010.org
The intervening years.
From the 1940’s to the present day three particular threads have developed in the ecumenical landscape of Scotland.
From the so-called Bishops Report, (an Anglican/Presbyterian report in 1956), through nearly 30 years of Multilateral Conversations (1967-1994) involving six Churches in Scotland, to the Scottish Churches Initiative for Christian Unity (SCIFU -1996-2003) many doctrinal issues were addressed. This has resulted in greater understanding of our different traditions and an increasing discovery that there is much theological agreement between the churches. The fact that this has failed to produce a scheme of union, upon which all could agree, is based not on any antagonism between churches as realising that unity is more than creating some grand plan. It lies in recognising unity as possible within difference.
At national level two bodies emerged in the 1950’s producing great energy and vision.. By the beginning of 1960 this became enfleshed in the opening of Scottish Churches House in Dunblane - a Conference and Retreat Centre which “the Churches held in common and where they could begin to learn to grow together to serve Scotland”. By 1962 the Scottish Churches Council was established with most non-Roman Catholic Churches as members and a number of associated ecumenical groups and organisations. This led to many nationally sponsored activities – e.g. Lent courses, youth work, outreach work in communities, which soon mushroomed with local councils of Churches throughout Scotland co-operating in joint worship and action. In 1986 a UK-wide Lent course was the catalyst for new ‘instruments of unity’ which for the first time included the Roman Catholic Church. So Action for Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) came into being in 1990.
The Prophetic Voice
This third thread is the one that is the most difficult one for Churches to live with. Yet without it ecumenism would lose its cutting edge. As Churches grew closer together, ecumenism provided its own prophetic action. Christian Aid reflected in its work both the practical expression of compassion for the world’s hungry, but also, the prophetic words of protest for justice in the world. The Iona Community that has always had a strong ecumenical commitment has openly challenged the Churches and the World on their disunity and injustice. There have been prophetic moments as when in 1982 on his visit to Scotland Pope John Paul II said “Let us walk together as pilgrims hand in hand”.
Ecumenism in recent years has widened to an inter-faith context, and to Christian witness in a more secular and multi-cultural society. What its history in Scotland has illustrated is that to meet that challenge we need to hold these three threads in tension. It is not a choice between them. For it is only when they interact with each other that there is created the theology, the co-operation, and the prophetic voice, which lies at the heart of an ecumenical vision.
Tartans are one of Scotland’s treasures. Traditionally each pattern was identified with a particular ‘clan’ or family, but tartans are a living tradition and continue to be designed for many different purposes and organisations. Tartans have a base colour onto which horizontal and vertical stripes are laid. The background text is above, and below we offer a number of horizontal and vertical stripes which share just some of the ways the churches engage between themselves and with wider society.
Horizontal Stripes – churches seeking unity together.
The Joint Commission on Doctrine of the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church.
This bilateral dialogue has proved to be a rich source of blessing. Its most recent document is entitled "Baptism: Catholic and Reformed" which summarises progress in understanding common baptism, but which also invites further reflection on what this means for the mission of the Church today. The Joint Commission is an example of positive ecumenical theological dialogue, and shows both individuals and institutions are willing to listen seriously to one another. The Joint Commission is currently studying the healing of historical memories and the doctrine of sanctification.
The EMU strand
Following the end of the Scottish Churches Initiative For Union, three denominations made the commitment to explore ways of working, serving and witnessing together. Thus the EMU conversations were born. Representatives of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church meet twice a year to discover ways in which nationally and locally we can do those things together that need not be done separately, and are delighted as people with particular responsibilities explore and identify how cooperation can grow, for example in education and training. EMU is a young, living relationship of great potential.
Developing relations with ethnic minority Christians.
In 2007 churches in Scotland marked the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. This became a catalyst in developing closer relationships between the traditional churches and growing number of ethic minority Christians in Scotland. The Scottish Churches Racial Justice Group now has representatives from African Churches and Asian Christian Fellowships. Minority Ethic Christians are organising themselves into a body to further relationships amongst themselves and with the traditional churches and ACTS.
Vertical Stripes – the churches engaging in Scottish society.
The Churches and Parliament.
The Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office was born out of the churches' engagement in the process that brought the Scottish Parliament into being. Having found we could work together on this, churches set up SCPO to enable them to engage as effectively as possible with the Parliament and Government in Scotland – not to set a party line, but to ensure that a conversation takes place and that the voices of the churches are heard. Clearly, we are most effective when we can speak with one voice for our vision for the common good of Scotland, but where there are differing voices we are honest and open about that.
The Churches and the National Conversation
Leaders / representatives of twelve of Scotland’s Churches accepted the invitation of the Scottish Government to contribute to a ‘national conversation’ on choosing the future of Scotland.
The group produced the following statement:
"We recognise that the Church is on a journey as well as our nation; all of us are going to struggle to get to where we need to be. But for the Church, as well as for our nation and our communities, we aspire towards these Christian values characterising our common life in Scotland:
For us, these values are rooted in Jesus and have distinctively shaped Scotland's story as it has developed over the years; where they are lived and practised, we find they resonate with people of other faiths and of none.”
Street Pastors is a mission initiative spreading throughout Scotland. Teams of
trained volunteer Street Pastors from local churches are available late at night
in town centres to offer words of advice and practical support, to people out
and about. 'We will meet, talk and engage with the people through listening,
supporting and helping in practical ways. This could be walking a girl on her
own to a late night taxi; reassuring someone who feels intimidated; or listening
to the people who need to know that somebody cares,' said James Duce from the
City Church in Aberdeen, the first Scottish city to launch Street Pastors.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
In 1968, materials jointly prepared by the WCC Faith and Order Commission and the
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were first used.
Key dates in the history of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
(Luke 24: 37)