At least once a year, many Christians become aware of the great diversity of ways of adoring God. Hearts are touched, and people realise that their neighbours' ways are not so strange.
The event that touches off this special experience is something called the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Traditionally celebrated between 18-25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere), the Week of Prayer enters into congregations and parishes all over the world. Pulpits are exchanged, and special ecumenical worship services are arranged.
Ecumenical partners in a particular region are asked to prepare a basic text on a biblical theme. Then an international group with WCC-sponsored (Protestant and Orthodox) and Roman Catholic participants edits this text and ensures that it is linked with the search for the unity of the church.
The text is jointly published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and WCC, through the WCC's Commission on Faith and Order, which also accompanies the entire production process of the text. The final material is sent to member churches and Roman Catholic dioceses, and they are invited to translate the text and contextualise it for their own use.
The 2012 theme "We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ" is based on the apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:51-58). It promises a transformation of human life, with all its apparent “triumph” and “defeat”, through the victory of Christ's resurrection.
The materials have been especially prepared by churches in Poland this time, writing out of their own history of trial, triumph and concern.
Traditionally celebrated between 18 and 25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere), the week of prayer mobilizes countless congregations and parishes around the world. During that week, Christians from different confessional families get together and - at least on that occasion - pray together in special ecumenical celebrations.
"Rivalry is a permanent feature not only in sport but also in political, business, cultural and, even, church life" warns the introductory text for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2012.
Both football (Poland prepares to host the European Championship this year) and Polish history, marked by military invasions and freedom struggles, have inspired the preparatory group to "spare a thought for the losers", coming to the conclusion that "There is room for everyone in God’s plan of salvation."
The production of the liturgical and biblical material for the week of prayer has been coordinated jointly since 1968 by the World Council of Churches (Faith and Order Commission) and the Roman Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).
Resources for the week are available in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and include: an introduction to the theme; a suggested ecumenical celebration which local churches are encouraged to adapt for their own particular liturgical, social and cultural contexts; biblical reflections and prayers for the "eight days"; and additional prayers from, and an overview of, the ecumenical situation in Poland.
* Brochure for 2012 in English (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file) - http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/files/wcc-main/documents/p2/2011/WOP2...
* Resources from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) - http://www.ctbi.org.uk/
* The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle enables you to journey in prayer through every region of the world and through every week of the year - http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/prayer-cycle.html