Prior to his death, John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus prayed for his disciples and all who would follow in their footsteps, that they would ‘be one’ as he was one with God. This unity is something that the Church has undoubtedly struggled with down the centuries, and still does today, in some areas. Yet the need for unity remains urgent.
Each year, the Church of England participates in a global week of prayer for Christian unity, which spans the denominations. It was initiated in 1908 by Fr Paul Watson – an American Episcopal priest and later a member of the Roman Catholic branch of the Franciscan Religious Order. Over the years, this Week of Prayer has expanded its reaches and evolved in form. There is a specific theme for the week, each year, which is chosen by different places across the world in turn. This year’s theme is “They showed an unusual kindness”, prepared by the Christian churches in Malta and Gozo and inspired by a particular experience of the Apostle Paul, recounted in Acts 27:18 – 28:10. Whilst being held prisoner, he was made to undertake a boat journey, during which the ship got caught in a terrible storm Eventually the boat was shipwrecked on the island of Malta, where Paul wrote that they received’ unusual kindness’. Despite different cultures, customs and beliefs, the encounter was marked by respect, openness and generosity.
Here in Sutton Coldfield, our Churches Together forum is marking this week by holding daily times of prayer and reflection, held in different churches and at different times. To find out more about the services, please visit the individual church websites. Our own service will be on Wednesday 22nd Jan at 10:30am.
To read more about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and it’s history you can go to www.weekofprayer.ca/history-week-prayer-christian-unity or ctbi.org.uk/weekofprayer