Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015

FatherWallace

Later this month, Jan. 18-25, the church will be celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Bishop Dennis Sullivan and some other Christian bishops and leaders will be joining for prayer to begin the week on Sunday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m. at the Catholic Church of St. Mary, 2001 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill. All are welcomed and encouraged to attend. It promises to be a beautiful service filled with music and prayer. Please encourage your Christian friends and family to join us as we pray for that unity that Christ so desires. Light refreshments will be served after the service.

Bishop Sullivan and the other bishops will join a group of homeless men for dinner following the prayer service.

The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is, Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 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 Brazil.

Brazilians live in a very diverse country that has different languages, cultures and environments. They also have a variety of Christian denominations. Hospitality is a important aspect of Brazilian culture and this theme is reflected in the prayer service.

The planners, aware that the world we live in is often marked by diversity in language, culture and even climate, recognized that we express our Christian faith in diverse ways. Celebrating this diversity, they realized we Christians are nonetheless called to be faithful to Christ’s call for the unity of his church. This year our scriptural theme comes from the Gospel of John where Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Give me a drink.” In our quest for Christian unity Jesus will give us the living water we need for our journey. “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14).

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman invites us to try water from a different well and also to offer a little of our own. In diversity, we enrich each other. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a privileged moment for prayer, encounter and dialogue. It is an opportunity to recognize the richness and value that are present in the other, the different, and to ask God for the gift of unity.

“Whoever drinks of this water keeps coming back,” says a Brazilian proverb, always used when a visitor comes to the house. A refreshing glass of water, Chimarrao, coffee or terere is offered as trademarks of acceptance, dialogue and coexistence. The biblical gesture of offering water to whomever arrives (Mt 10:42), as a way of welcoming and sharing, is something that is repeated in all regions of Brazil.

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, Jan. 18, at the Catholic Church of St. Mary in Cherry Hill to pray with our bishop for Christian unity. It is a wonderful and grace-filled experience to join fellow Christians and their leaders as we pray for an increase of the unity we already celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to give the gift of the life-giving water, that we received at baptism, to the world.

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