Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

         

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere between Ascension Sunday and Pentecost, or at any other time that works for churches to plan an ecumenical service.

We pray during this week and throughout the year that the Spirit will bring Christians closer together.

Pope John Paul II in his encyclical “Ut unum Sint” (“That They May be One”) quotes the Second Vatican Council: “This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and can rightly be called ‘spiritual ecumenism.'”

Despite our many differences, the church is united in Christ, and in its constant need for God, and thus its need for prayer. The language of prayer unites Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant believers without letting our differences discourage us or allowing obstacles to get in the way. Prayer also unites us across denominational, national and cultural lines. As Paul says, “…there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, for all are one.” 

2024 theme: You shall love the Lord your God …and your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27)

Resources adapted for Australia now available here for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (12-19th May) now available.
Time to start planning ecumenical events!

2024 dates (Southern Hemisphere) – between Ascension Day (May 9th 2024) and Pentecost (May 19th 2024), a symbolic date for the unity of the Church. The date in the Orthodox church will differ from the Western church due to the different methods of calculating the date of Easter. 

An ecumenical service can be held on any date that works for local congregations to plan a service together, to express the degree of communion which the churches have already reached, and to pray together for that full unity which is Christ’s will.

2024 resources available here, which can be adapted for local use. 

The materials for the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by an ecumenical team from Burkina Faso. The country is a former French colony in Africa. The country name means “Land of Incorruptible People”, and was adopted in 1984. More than 40% of the population lives below the poverty line and Burkina Faso ranks 184th out of 191 countries in the 2021–2022 HDI report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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Service outline for May 28th 2023

Acknowledgement of Country 
The Ancient of Days breathed life into this Land and her Peoples. From time beyond our reckoning the First Peoples have blessed this place through their care and concern. 
We gather today on the unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation 
(or name the First Nations people in your region). 
We pay our respects to their elders past and present.
We stand in solidarity with the call
of the Statement from the Heart
for Treaty, Voice and Truth.

Welcome and Gathering
Sisters and brothers, we gather here in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today we celebrate Pentecost, the genesis of the Church. The Church was instituted by the Spirit in the midst of diversity and with the unifying and prophesying power of the Holy Spirit. 
Today we also acknowledge the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Unity in the midst of diversity and this unifying and prophesying power fuels the work of justice, making plain our common humanity and giving us the ability to communicate, despite differences as well as the ability to bear witness to and through the power of God. All of creation is endowed with the Spirit of God, therefore we are all related.
Today we also acknowledge Reconciliation Sunday, the first Sunday of National Reconciliation Week. Reconciliation Sunday encourages us to participate in one of the major themes of our Christian faith – in God’s great love for us, God has reconciled us through Jesus Christ, entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. We contribute to this movement of reconciliation by developing mutually respectful relationships between First and Second Peoples within congregations and the wider church. 

Prayer of adoration
God of Holy Dreaming, Great Creator Spirit, from the dawn of creation you have given your children the good things of Mother Earth. In the vast desert and dense forest, and in cities at the water’s edge, Creation sings your praise. Your presence endures as the rock at the heart of our Land. 
In Jesus, we have been reconciled to you, to each other and to your whole creation. 
Lead us on, Great Spirit, as we gather from the four corners of the earth; enable us to walk together in trust from the hurt and shame of the past into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ. Amen. (Aunty Rev’d Leonore Parker, adapted)

HYMN: In Christ there is no east or west (Together in Song 459)

In Christ there is no east or west,
in him no south or north, 
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.

In Christ shall true hearts ev’rywhere
their high communion find.
His service is the golden cord
close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, people of the faith,
whate’er your race may be.
All children of the living God
are surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both east and west,
in him meet south and north.
All Christly souls are joined as one
throughout the whole wide earth.

Sharing a sign of peace
May the peace of Divine Presence be with you.
And also with you.
A sign of peace is shared

Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34 and 35B
Our God, we cannot count the living things that all pour out from your wisdom; all creatures that cover the earth are yours.
Around us is the sea, deep and wide, which teems with countless fish, and living creatures small and huge.
Out there is the restless ocean where the brave ships sail and enormous whales play. All creatures depend on you, they look to you for food given in the right season.
As you freely give, they gather it; when you open your hands they are filled with good things. If you hid your face, they would be dismayed, if you took away their breath, they would die and their bodies return to the dust.
If you breathed again with your Spirit, they would be created again, renewing the face of the earth.
Please let your glory, God, last forever, smile on your handiwork and be happy For if you frown, the earth will tremble, at your touch the mountains will smoke.
I will sing to my God as long as I live, I will give praise while I have being. May my meditations give you pleasure, for I delight in you, loving God
With all my being I celebrate God! O yes, my soul! Praise God!  (B.D. Prewer 2000)

Prayer of Lament and Confession
Gracious God, we give thanks for our place in the world that offers deep connection with land, the waterways and oceans, plants, and living creatures. 
We pause to acknowledge that there have been times when we, 
in part or in whole, have caused loss, hurt and pain. 
At this time, we humbly acknowledge the actions that have caused pain or loss to the First Peoples of our land, for the years it took for the First Peoples to be embraced by the Church, for the mistreatment, abuse and neglect of those vulnerable people  who placed their faith in the church and its care, for the harsh words, lack of care, ignorance, insensitivity and pride that have damaged relationships and the people so dear to you. 
May we open our hearts, that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us and play our part in naming and overcoming our divisions, and to welcome truth telling about systems and structures that have contributed to the fracturing of communities.
As you brought reconciliation through Jesus, we pray that you will also enable all of us to become reconciled to one another through the power of your Spirit. Amen. (Rev Mark Schultz, adapted)

Music for reflection

Readings        Acts 2:1-17                 John 20: 19-23

(optional readings for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Isaiah 1:12-18 and in particular v.17 – Learn to do right; seek justice. defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Mt 25: 31-40)

Contemporary reading

For Wisdom revealed in scripture and poetry, 
For Wisdom made known among us,
For the Wisdom that dwells within us,
We give thanks.

HYMN 
(local choice, depending on focus for reflection)

REFLECTION/HOMILY/SERMON
(note: the WPCU resource has sermon notes for a homily using the Matthew reading)

HYMN
(local choice, depending on focus for reflection)

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of love, Creator of this land and of all: You sustained the people who had lived in this place for thousands of years, a people whose soul is one with this earth and will always be. 
And, those who have arrived by boat or plane in these last centuries 
and those who now call this place home, not understanding how much has been lost, how much has been taken. 

Teach us and show us the way. 

Creator God, today we live with the consequences of actions that have made life unsustainable for some and overabundant for others. Teach us to know how to responsibly use the resources you have given to us for the benefit of all and the respect of your creation. The groaning creation cries out to you.

Teach us and show us the way

Just as Christ Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the disciples to birth the community of the new creation, send your grace to heal our divisions and gift us with the unity for which Jesus prayed.

Teach us and show us the way.

Just as Christ embodied justice in his ministry on earth by the good that he did, breaking down the walls that divide and the prejudices that imprison, may we play our part in acknowledging the pain, treasuring the truth, and working for peace, justice and reconciliation. 

Teach us and show us the way.

In a time of silence we offer our own prayers… for people and places close to our hearts.
A silence is kept

These are the prayers of our hearts,
May our prayers move to live with passion and compassion. Amen.      

Lord’s Prayer    

(or use invite people to pray in their mother tongue, or have several people lead the Lord’s Prayer in their mother tongue)

HYMN: God of freedom, God of Justice

God of freedom, God of justice,
you whose love is strong as death,
you who saw the dark of prison,
you who knew the price of faith —
touch our world of sad oppression
with your Spirit’s healing breath.

Rid the earth of torture’s terror,
you whose hands were nailed to wood;
hear the cries of pain and protest,
you who shed the tears and blood —
move in us the power of pity
restless for the common good.

Make in us a captive conscience
quick to hear, to act, to plead;
make us truly sisters, brothers
of whatever race or creed — 
teach us to be fully human,
open to each other’s needs. 

Shirley Erena Murray; Together in Song 657

OFFERING
/OFFERING PRAYER
Source of life, whose heart abounds with gifts, 
we bring our offerings as a sign
of our intention to live
surrounded by your compassion,
inspired by your Spirit,
open to the joy of your presence, hospitable toward one another, 
and generous toward your world. Amen.

NOTICES

HYMN: Sing for  God’s glory

Sing for God’s glory
that colours the dawn of creation, 
racing across the sky,
trailing bright clouds of elation; 
sun of delight
succeeds the velvet of night, 
warming the earth’s exultation.

Sing for God’s power
that shatters the chains that would hold us, 
searing the bleakness of fear
and despair that would mould us,
touching our shame
with love that will not lay blame,
reaching out gently to find us.

Sing for God’s justice
disturbing each easy illusion, 
tearing down tyrants
and putting our pride to confusion; 
lifeblood of right,
resisting evil and slight,
offering freedom’s transfusion.

Sing for God’s saints
who have travelled faith’s journey before us, 
who in our weariness
give us their hope to restore us;
in them we see
the new creation to be,
spirit of love made flesh for us.

Words: Kathy Galloway; Tune: Lobe den Herren

Benediction
May our footsteps, on these ancient lands
remind us of creation and connectedness, in our search for truth. 
May the gum tree, from its roots to its branches,
remind us to dig deep and reach high, in our action for justice. 
May the eagle, who soars in the sky,
remind us of the power, in our call for love. 
May the expanse of the lands and seas, of the sky and stars,
remind us of God’s timing in our faith in hope. 
May the holy three – Creator Spirit, Lord God, Papa Jesus, remind us of community. 
So go with grace, mercy and peace, go in truth, justice, love and hope. Amen.
(Brooke Prentis)