Tag Archives: Christian Unity

20 January, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: A prayer service for small groups.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021

Service for use at home or in small gatherings

  • This service could be read for personal prayer, as large gatherings in church are unlikely to happen this year.

Each person needs a card heart, a pencil/pen and a tea light.

Music is played as people gather and a candle is lit in the middle of a large circle which everyone sits around.

Opening Prayer

Lord, you invite us to abide in you who are the vinedresser who cares for us with love.

You call on us to see the beauty of each branch united to the vine,

the beauty of each person.

And yet, too often the differences in others make us afraid.

We withdraw into ourselves. Our trust in you and one another is lost.

Come and direct our hearts toward you once again.

That as one family we may praise your name.

Amen.

Litany of praise

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the midst of the world and among all peoples,

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the midst of creation and among all creatures.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise among suffering and tears,

Reader 2 We sing your praise among promises and achievements.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the places of conflict and misunderstanding;

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the places of encounter and reconciliation.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the midst of rifts and divisions,

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the midst of life and death, the birth of a new heaven and a new earth.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

First VigilAbiding in Christ: the unity of the whole person

Reading: Jn 15:1-17

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader God of love, through Christ you said to us: “You did not choose me but I chose you.” You invite us to receive your friendship. Teach us to respond more deeply to this invitation, and to grow and grow in a life that is ever more complete.

WPCU 2021 simplified / 2

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God of life, you call us to be praise in the midst of the world and to accept one another. May your loving gaze, which rests upon each person, inspire us to celebrate each other just as we are.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God you who gather, you knit us together as one vine in Jesus. May your loving Spirit abide in us at church and in our community that together we may celebrate you with joy.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God of the one vineyard, you call us to live in your love in all we do and say. Touched by your goodness, grant us to be a reflection of that love in our homes, schools and workplaces.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Action: A time of silence where we reflect on God’s love, after which music is played as everyone writes/draws their name on their card and takes it up and places it by the candle.

Second VigilThe visible unity of Christians

Psalm: 85

Reading: 1 Cor 1:10-13a

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader Holy Spirit, you create and re-create the Church in all places. Come and whisper in our hearts the prayer which Jesus addressed to his Father on the eve of his passion: “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe”.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, light the fire of your love in us so that suspicions and misunderstanding cease in the Church. May the walls that separate us fall.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Holy Spirit, Consoler of all, open our hearts to forgiveness and reconciliation and bring us back to you when we lose our way.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, give us poverty of spirit so that we may be open to your grace.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Holy Spirit, you never abandon the men, women and children who are persecuted for their faithfulness to the gospel. Give them strength and courage, and support those who help them.

All Thank you. Amen.

Action: Let us exchange a sign of Christ’s peace as our prayer and commitment to unity.

WPCU 2021 simplified / 3

Then each takes up their tea light and lights it from the main candle and places it by their heart.

Third VigilThe unity of all peoples with all creation

Psalm: 96

Reading: Rev. 7: 9-12

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader God of life, you have created everyone in your image and likeness. We sing your praise for the gift of our many cultures and traditions. Grant us the courage to stand against injustice and prejudice

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader Merciful God, you have shown us in Christ that we are one in you. Teach us to use this gift in the world so that believers of all faiths in every country may be able to listen to each other and live in peace

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader O Jesus, you came into the world and shared fully in our humanity. You know the hardships of life for people who suffer in so many different ways. May the Spirit of compassion move us to share our time, gifts and resources with all those in need.

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader Holy Spirit, you hear the fury of your wounded creation and the cries of those already suffering from climate change. Guide us toward new ways of living that are in harmony with all creation.

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Action: Moving to the centre and out to the world (inspired by a text of Dorotheus of Gaza). Everyone stands and takes a step towards the candle and extends hands towards each other.

Reader At the centre of the world is God, in whom all our desires and longings find their meeting place.

As we move closer to God, so we draw closer to one another. And the closer we come to one another . . .

All The closer we come to God.

Short time of silence followed by the Lord’s Prayer after which people return to their seats and pray using words the Grandchamp nuns pray each day…

Reader Will you Pray and work that God may reign?

All With Gods help, we will.

Reader Throughout your day will you let the Word of God breathe life into your work and play and rest?

All With God’s help, we will.

Reader Will you maintain inner silence in all things so as to dwell in Christ?

WPCU 2021 simplified / 4

All With God’s help, we will.

Amen.

Suitable music could be played at this point.

Blessing

Reader Be one, so that the world may believe! Abide in God’s love, go into the world and bear the fruits of this love.

All May the God of all creation, fill us with all joy and all peace in faith, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

This simplified version of the Ecumenical Celebration was prepared by Lynne Chitty, on behalf of ROOTS for Churches Ltd.

ROOTS publishes weekly worship and learning resources at www.rootsontheweb.com

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20 January: Church Unity Week Day III, “Love one another as I have loved you”

Meditation

On the eve of his death, Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his disciples. He knew the difficulty of living together and the importance of forgiveness and mutual service. “Unless I wash you,” he said to Peter, “you have no
share with me.”
Peter received Jesus at his feet; he was washed and was touched by the humility and gentleness of Christ.
Later he would follow Jesus’ example and serve the fellowship of the faithful in the early church. Jesus wishes that life and love circulate through us as the sap through the vine, so that Christian communities be one body. But today as in the past, it is not easy to live together. We are often faced with our own limitations. At times we fail to love those who are close to us in a community, parish or family. There are times when our relationships break down completely. In Christ we are invited to be clothed in compassion, through countless
new beginnings. The recognition that we are loved by God moves us to welcome each other with our strengths and weaknesses. It is then that Christ is in our midst.

“With almost nothing, are you a creator of reconciliation in that communion of love, which is the Body of Christ, his Church? Sustained by a shared momentum, rejoice! You are no longer alone, in all things you are advancing together with your brothers and sisters. With them, you are called to live the parable of community.” [The Sources of Taizé (2000) pp. 48-49]

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19 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Day II. “Abide in me as I abide in you”

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Ephesians 3:14-21 May Christ dwell in our hearts
Luke 2:41-52 Mary treasured all these things

The encounter with Jesus gives rise to the desire to stay with him and to abide in him: a time in which
fruit matures. Being fully human, like us Jesus grew and matured. He lived a simple life, rooted in the practices of his Jewish faith. In this hidden life in Nazareth, where apparently nothing extraordinary happened, the presence of the Father nourished him.
Mary contemplated the actions of God in her life and in that of her son. She treasured all these things in her heart. Thus, little by little, she embraced the mystery of Jesus.
We too need a long period of maturation, an entire lifetime, in order to plumb the depths of Christ’s love, to let him abide in us and for us to abide in him. Without our knowing how, the Spirit makes Christ dwell in our hearts. And it is through prayer, by listening to the word, in sharing with others, by putting into practice what we have understood, that the inner being is strengthened.
“Letting Christ descend into the depths of our being … He will penetrate the regions of the mind and the heart, he will reach our flesh unto our innermost being, so that we too will one day experience the depths of mercy.” [The Sources of Taizé (2000) p. 134]

Holy Spirit,
May we receive in our hearts the presence of Christ,
and cherish it as a secret of love.
Nourish our prayer,
enlighten our reading of Scripture,
act through us,
so that the fruits of your gifts can patiently grow in us.

Questions
• The Bible tells us very little about Jesus’ youth and early adulthood, when he seems to have lived an ordinary life in Nazareth. How are you conscious of God’s presence with you in the everyday things of life?
• In your church or group of churches how do you nurture your children and young people to walk with God in their everyday lives, and how could you do this better?
• What does the churches having a ‘presence’ together in the community look like in your area?

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18 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Day I.

DAY 1 You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16)

Genesis 12:1-4 The call of Abraham
John 1:35-51 The call of the first disciples

Prayer
Jesus Christ,
you seek us, you wish to offer us your friendship
and lead us to a life that is ever more complete.
Grant us the confidence to answer your call
so that we may be transformed
and become witnesses of your tenderness for the world.


Questions
• Have you ever been aware that God was asking you or someone you know to begin a new journey in life – whether literally moving to somewhere else, or ‘changing direction’ in some other way?
How did you respond?
• What changes could your church or group of churches make to empower God’s people to walk more faithfully the path God has set for you, or to discern God’s guidance more clearly?
• What are some of the stories of the ‘new’ members of your community, whether they have crossed a county boundary or journeyed across continents to get there?

The booklet for Church Unity week can be found here.

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17 January: Introduction to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity starts tomorrow. I have no idea what shared service might be possible, but we’ve been learning how to stay together in new ways for months now. If we cannot gather in each other’s buildings, we can pray together at Pope John Paul II’s ‘Altar of the World’.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2021 has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.
The Grandchamp Community has its origins in Europe in the 1930s, when a group of women of the Reformed tradition sought to rediscover the importance of silence and listening to the Word of God. Today the community has fifty sisters, all women from different generations, Church traditions, countries and continents. In their diversity the sisters are a living parable of communion. They remain faithful to a life of prayer, life in community and the welcoming of guests.
In producing the material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2021, the sisters are inviting churches across the world to enter into their tradition of prayer and silence that is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Church catholic.

Jesus said to the disciples, “abide in my love” (John 15:9). He abides in the love of the Father (Jn 15:10) and desires nothing other than to share this love with us. The Father is the centre of our lives, who centres our lives. He prunes us and makes us whole, and whole human beings give glory to the Father.
Abiding in Christ is an inner attitude that takes root in us over time. It demands space to grow. It can be overtaken by the struggle for the necessities of life and it is threatened by the distractions, noise, activity and
the challenges of life.
We who know the full value of a spiritual life, have an immense responsibility and must realise it, unite and help each other create forces of calmness, refuges of peace, vital centres where the silence of people calls on the creative word of God. It is a question of life and death.

Agnellus Mirror will reflect some of the meditations and prayers suggested for each day of the week of prayer; let us pray today for the gift to be silent with others, allowing them room to speak or just be quiet with us.

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6 March, Praying with Pope Francis: for Catholics in China. (Desert IX: fear 2 – persecution).

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For this month of March, Pope Francis asks us to pray for the Church in China. 

We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.

Although Christianity has existed in China since the first Millennium, it was The Jesuit Matteo Ricci who most famously began missionary work in Imperial Beijing in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Other missionaries followed, including the Columbans who were among those deported by the Communist regime in 1949. They now have new links with the country which you can read about in their Far East Magazine.

For a comprehensive picture of the desert of persecution endured by the Christians of China, this report from Aid to the Church in need makes for sobering Lenten reading.

We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity. Lord in your Mercy: hear our prayer.

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24 January, Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness VII.

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This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Changing our hearts and minds

And when Paul had gathered together a bundle of sticks, and had laid them on the fire, a viper coming out of the heat, fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the beast hanging on his hand, they said one to another: Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, who though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance doth not suffer him to live. And he indeed shaking off the beast into the fire, suffered no harm. But they supposed that he would begin to swell up, and that he would suddenly fall down and die. But expecting long, and seeing that there came no harm to him, changing their minds, they said that he was a god. (28:3-6)

Reflection

Monster! The headlines tear like shards of glass through ripped reputations and tainted talents, to be heard no more.

Hordes! Names, stories, lives, compacted into an anonymised mass.  Contempt for care, rejection made righteous.

When will we turn and dare to see the sister in the surge of displaced existence, and the brother in the monster’s shame?

Prayer

Almighty God, we turn to You with repentant hearts. In our sincere quest for Your truth, purify us from our unjust opinions of others and lead the churches to grow in communion.

Help us let go of our fears, and so better understand each other and the stranger in our midst, and dare to love the rejected.

We ask this in the name of the Just One, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The ancient painting of Saint Paul shaking off the viper can be found, though not by the casual viewer, in Saint Anselm’s Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. MMB.

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20 June, Corpus Christi: Temptation lingers.

 

Our friend Christina Chase recently wrote that ‘Temptation lingers in desert spots‘ – which is perfectly true. It’s so easy to get things out of proportion.

But what did the children of Israel  wish for, out there in the desert? The fleshpots of Egypt, not a closer walk with God.

The children of Israel said, ‘Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ (Exodus 16:3)

And when they were in Egypt, they were oppressed so hard they could not stand – yet they’d rather go back to slavery than walk as free men and women with God. Of course spiritual slavery is more subtle than that. Who are the false gods we are tempted to put before the true One?

God heard his people, but did not answer their despair with thunderbolts to fulfil their death wish. No, he sent mercy, like the gentle rain from heaven, in the form of manna. He sustained them on their travels.

As we will be sustained:

[They said], Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:31-33)

It’s a scandal that Christians are not united at the Lord’s table.

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4 April. Before the Cross XX: Dancing in the blazing fiery furnace.

rupert.red.image

When I first saw this picture that Rupert sent I had not read his reflection but I soon realised that our perceptions, thoughts and intuitions differed but in a creative way. Perhaps my grandson’s baptism attuned me to baptismal themes here. Thank you Rupert, for sharing this arresting image.

It was the dove descending that I first noticed, coming from the fiery light that overflows from the left hand side of the painting. The Spirit seems to be aiming for the water jar, just left of centre. ‘Fill the jars with water’, the Lord commanded at Cana, and the water and the wedding feast were transformed. To reinforce this connection, the jar at the very left has tongues of fire over it, the Spirit hovering over the waters. We are very much in John’s Gospel here: the cross is part of creation! There are six jars, as at Cana, and a basin in which to wash each other’s feet as in John’s account of the Last Supper.

The figures at the top right are in an attitude of adoration, which they express physically, they are not mere armchair Christians. And their attitude, their bowing, is athletic rather than abject. Thus is fear and trembling felt at a moment of great joy.

The three dancers across the middle of the painting are in harmony rather than unison with each other: there are may ways for Christians to be united, after all, but all hear and react to the same music.

The Cross – the blood-spattered Cross as Rupert points out – dominates the space, but is not a symbol of defeat. Rather like an Eschler work, its perspective is more than two dimensional, thrusting out of the frame, And where its shadow would be, were it not a blaze of light, the Light of the World, the undefeated Christ is carrying his banner forward. The dancers have seen him and respond in joy: the fourth person has appeared in the blazing fiery furnace: they are joyful, suffering, people of the light.

MMB.

Worship by Jun Ramosmos.

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January 18: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: 1 Let justice roll down like waters.

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Let justice roll down like waters (Amos 5:24)

  • Amos 5:22-25

  • Luke 11:37-44

Starting point

Christians in Indonesia recognize that in their land there are people who passionately try to practise their faith, but who oppress those of other beliefs. In the prophecy of Amos, God rejects the worship of those who neglect justice. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus reminds us that the outward sign of true worship of God is acting justly. Christians can sometimes be very committed to prayer and worship, but less concerned for the poor and the marginalized. When, as Christians, we work together on justice issues we grow closer to one another and to God.

Reflection

At the table

we sit,

empty plates, but for a few crumbs.

Everyone’s had their fill again,

satiated,

at least for now.

Turning on the taps

we fill our bowls,

in the hope that the stains will disappear.

The water cascades

over cup

and plate,

cleansing it

of any sign of human contact,

as if there had never been a meal.

In our polite conversation

and edgy discourse,

we fool ourselves

into thinking we are making a difference.

We faithfully gather,

but are we just acting,

waiting,

for the others to speak up

as we wash our hands?

Prayer

God of all,

you have shown us the path of justice.

You are the father of the orphan.

You are the constant companion of the widow.

You are the friend of the stranger.

In each of these,

may we meet you

and recognize the wind of your Spirit,

moving us toward the need for justice.

In all that we do,

may we know your grace and mercy

and offer healing and justice in your name.

Questions

  • How would you describe justice?

  • Where have you recognized justice in action?

  • Can we have unity without justice?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

‘Charity is no substitute for justice withheld’.

Take time to reflect and remember campaign successes of the recent and distant past, e.g. the abolition of transatlantic slavery and the end of apartheid in South Africa. Visit Go and Do to read about recent successes in the campaign for tax justice.

Celebrate the successes and get together to discuss what action your community of churches could take to challenge injustice that is happening now. Visit Go and Do for some creative activism ideas.

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