Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014

You may recall that we had planned our annual prayer service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Jan. 21 but we were unfortunately unable to follow through with the service due to the snow storm that ensued that evening. Thankfully, the long, cold and snowy winter is ended and we have rescheduled our prayer service to be celebrated fittingly on Pentecost Sunday. The service will be held on Sunday, June 8, at 3 p.m. at St. Patrick Church, Holy Angels Parish, Woodbury.
Bishop Sullivan invited various judicatory heads from the other Christian churches in our South Jersey area to join him on the feast of Pentecost to pray for the unity that the church enjoyed on that original gathering of the Church in Jerusalem. Our Ecumenical Commission has been planning this service for months and we hope you will join us in prayer for the unity that Christ so desires.
Bishop Sullivan and the other Christian bishops and leaders will be joining to pray on that day as Christians who celebrate the birth of the church. The original gathering that we as Christians celebrate on this day commemorates the gathering of the early church to celebrate the Jewish feast of Shavuot, also called the Feast of First Fruits or Feast of Harvest in Jerusalem, as prescribed by Jewish law. It was a joyous celebration that celebrated the harvest and the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. On that day, as the Acts of the Apostles tells us, a strong rushing wind from heaven filled the room where they were and something like tongues of fire rested on their heads, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.” Empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as the church.
The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is, “Has Christ Been Divided?” Each year a different country has the honor of choosing the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year the theme was chosen by the churches of Canada. Canadians live in a very diverse country that has different languages, cultures and environments. They also have a variety of Christian denominations. These differences led the planners to reflect on St. Paul’s rather provocative question in I Corinthians: “Has Christ Been Divided?” We all know the answer to this question is certainly “No!” yet the Christian churches continue to embody scandalous divisions. I Corinthians remind us that we must work in ways in which we can value and receive the gifts of others even now in the midst of our divisions and that is an encouragement to us in our work for unity.
The Canadian Christians who put this year’s service together explained that when they considered the many blessings and gifts of God made manifest in their country and peoples, they began to recognize that they must treat one another, and the very land from which they derive their living, with dignity and respect. This recognition has called them to confession and repentance and to the seeking of new and sustainable ways of living on earth. They explained that it has raised their consciousness about how God has blessed all people and that no one group can decide how to use their gifts without hearing and including the voices of all Christians in seeking the ultimate goal of Christian unity.
The Church Unity Octave was first observed in January 1908. Celebrated in the chapel of a small Atonement Franciscan Convent of the Protestant Episcopal Church, on a remote hillside 50 miles from New York City, this new prayer movement caught the imagination of others beyond the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement to become an energetic movement that gradually blossomed into a worldwide observance involving many nations and millions of people. It is now sponsored by the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. On a national basis, materials for the celebration of the Week of Prayer are the work of Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious institute in collaboration with the Commission on Faith and Order of the National Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
Please come out and join us on Sunday, June 8, at St. Patrick Church in Woodbury to pray with our bishop for Christian unity. We all know the answer to St. Paul’s provocative question, Christ cannot be divided. Let us pray for a new Pentecost that will restore our original unity, so that the world may come to believe.

Father Joseph D. Wallace is coordinator, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.

Categories: That All May Be One

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