Eight days are set aside for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25), but there are great reasons to reflect on the observance’s call of togetherness throughout the year.
That’s the message from Dr. Dianna Wright, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations in the Office of the General Assembly.
“It’s strategic that the week is in January, the start of each year,” Wright said. “The resources created for the week, including daily scripture recommendations, can be used at any time.”
Similarly, the observance transcends Presbyterian and Reformed communities. “We’re not in this work alone, but in it with our other religious siblings as well. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity brings all Christian communities together in being one in Christ,” Wright said.
You can access each scripture recommendation from the website of the World Council of Churches, which has included the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a member since 1948. Other resources include an ecumenical opening prayer service, biblical reflections and other worship elements.
This year’s theme is “Do good, seek justice” from Isaiah 1:17. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the theme was selected by the Minnesota Council of Churches, USA “in the aftermath of the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd and the trial of the police officer responsible for his death.
“These events brought anguish, but also time for the Christian communities to contemplate ways in which they may be complicit in racial injustice. Christian unity is needed as a source of reconciliation and unity.”
Wright noted that justice is something all Abrahamic faiths are called to work on. “If we’re working on it only as Christians there is a gap between faiths and traditions.”
Although the call to justice is shared, different denominations and religions interpret it differently. Unity comes from accepting differences as well as commonalities.
Wright’s own practice is to reflect on scripture selected for the Prayer for Week of Christian Unity until Lent. She noted that the scripture recommendations could be used for Bible studies or to begin eight weeks of session meetings, for example.
Ecumenical and interreligious collaboration around the world is the work of Wright and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in every season. During last summer’s 225th General Assembly, a resolution denouncing antisemitism and Islamophobia was approved amid a rise in religious intolerance and violence. In February, Wright and Co-Moderator of the 225th General Assembly the Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis will represent the PC(USA) on an ecumenical peace journey to South Sudan.
Wright said that the Prayer for Christian Unity resources will provide a “good opportunity to reflect on values of loving your neighbor and being one in Christ” prior to the trip to South Sudan. Once there, she and Starling-Louis will join other Christian leaders including the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as well as representatives from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and the Anglican Community of South Sudan.
Wright and Starling-Louis will also be joined by PC(USA) mission co-workers Jeff Boyd and Sharon Kandel.
World Council of Churches resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: https://www.oikoumene.org/events/week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity