Christian unity week marks 100th anniversary
Jan. 8, 2008
NOTE: Art and audio are available at http://umns.umc.org.
NEW YORK (UMNS) - "Pray Without Ceasing" is the theme of the 100th anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which United Methodists and others around the world will observe this month.
The week will be observed Jan. 18-25, and its theme is taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
The Rev. W. Douglas Mills, an executive with the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, noted that the prayer of Jesus was that "we might become one."
"We, as United Methodists, are genuinely interested in unity, because unity is a gift from God," he said.
The observation got its start in January, 1908, when the "Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity" was celebrated in a remote chapel some 50 miles from New York City. It was an eight-day observance of prayers, sermons and conferences set between the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, then on Jan. 18, and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on Jan. 25.
Father Paul Watson and Sister Lurana White, U.S. Episcopalians and co-founders of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, started the movement to pray for Christian unity "without ceasing." The sisters and friars entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1909, and the Octave gained support throughout the church.
Methodists became involved in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity soon after it started, according to Mills.
Other movements for Christian unity were promoted by both Protestants and Catholics in the first half of the 20th century. In 1967, representatives of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches agreed to a joint observation. Since 1968, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have worked together each year to select themes and resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Since 1975, the theme and text have been chosen annually by Christian churches and communities of a particular country, with approval by an international commission.
While the observance seeks "unity in diversity," it also focuses on the wish "that all may be one," according to the will of Christ.
'Onward in Prayer'
John Mittelstadt of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., was the winner of an illustration competition for the 100th anniversary. His "Onward in Prayer" art adorns posters, prayer cards and other resources developed by Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute for the observance.
A number of Christian student and youth organizations, including the World Student Christian Federation, are participating in the week. "We strongly encourage all our members at the local, national and continental levels to organize common actions during the week with other Christian student and youth organizations," their common statement said.
"These actions could include ecumenical prayer services, social action activities (such as an environmental cleanup), Bible studies or seminars. We hope that this week will be an occasion for our groups to get to know each other better and to work together to proclaim the Good News of Jesus in our world today through word, prayer and action."
More information and downloadable resources for the week can be found at http://www.geii.org/wpcu_resources.htm.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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