At least once a year, many Christians become aware of the great diversity of ways of honouring God. Hearts are touched, and people realize that their neighbours' ways are not so strange - says the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
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 celebrations and prayer 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 contextualize it for their own use.
To make Christian unity a visible part of the call for justice and peace, and inspired by the struggles of Dalits in India, this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity explores the theme, “What does God require of us?” (Micah 6:6-8).
“The search for visible unity cannot be disassociated from the dismantling of casteism and the lifting up of contributions to unity by the poorest of the poor,” states the introductory text for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2013.
The theme brings into focus the strong call for justice by the prophet Micah in the Hebrew Scriptures [what Christians call the Old Testament].
As the introduction says, “In many ways, the situation facing the people of God in the time of Micah can be compared to the situation of the Dalit community in India. Dalits also face oppression and injustice from those who wish to deny them their rights and dignity.”
The Student Christian Movement of India was invited to prepare the resource for the week of prayer, along with the All India Catholic University Federation and the National Council of Churches in India.
Resources for the week are available in English, French, German and Spanish, and include: 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 introduction to Christianity in India.
* Brochure for 2013 in English (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/files/wcc-main/documents/p2/2013/WOP2...
* More about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/wpcu
* British and Irish churches pray and work together for Christian unity: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17826
* Why do we pray together? A reflection on Christian unity, by Harry Hagopian: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17829
* Related WPCU theme background from the WCC: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/week...
* Twitter hashtag for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: #wpcu2013
* Full Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) resources page for WPCU can be accessed here: http://www.ctbi.org.uk/606/
* The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle (http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/prayer-cycle.html) enables people to journey in prayer through every region of the world and through every week of the year.