United Methodists Urged to Join Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

January 13, 2015

Christians are reminded often during their faith journey of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they will be one…so that the world will believe…” John 17.21. To make sure that message gets through at least once each year, a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated. Traditionally this special week of prayer is observed between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, Jan. 18 – 25. The Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR) of the Council of Bishops is encouraging United Methodists around the world to participate in the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
 
“We participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to remind ourselves that we belong to Christ, and that we are one family in Christ,” said Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, ecumenical officer for the council.
  
Of course, unity isn’t something to be pondered for a few days and then put on the shelf until next January. Do a simple search on “Christian Unity” on Bishop Lowry’s blog and you’ll see that it is a persistent theme throughout. “Absolutely every person matters to God,” he writes in an Oct. 24, 2014 post. “…we have a moral responsibility and duty to share Christ – his love, redeeming grace and offer of salvation to every human being we can reach.”  On Nov. 7, he picked up the theme again. “As a worldwide people of faith, we embody the global call land claim of the gospel of our Lord. Together we are stronger and more faithful. We have the opportunity to learn from each other in grace-filled ministry. We are, on a worldwide basis, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
 
The theme for this year’s observance is “Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink” – based on the story of Jesus and the woman at the well found in the Gospel of John 4:4-42. “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,” writes Friar Thomas Orians, associate director, Graymoor Ecumenical and interreligious Institute. “When Jesus says to her, ‘please give me a drink’ it implies an ethical action that recognizes the need for one another in living out the Church’s mission. It compels us to change our attitude, to commit ourselves to seek unity in the midst of our diversity, through our openness to a variety of forms of prayer and Christian spirituality.”
 
“There are so many divisive issues to contend with in the world these days, that many of us are weary,” said the Rev. Stephen Sidorak, ecumenical staff officer for OCUIR. “During this special week set aside for intentional and communal prayer for Christian unity, let us appreciate once more our need to rely less on ourselves and more on the Lord to show us the denominational and ecumenical way forward.”
 
 
Begun in 1908, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated each year in cities and towns across the country and around the world. The theme and text for each year’s observance are chosen and prepared by representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and representatives of the World Council of Churches. The international texts are developed, adapted and published for use in the U.S. by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.