Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Faces Elusive Challenges

It would seem such a simple thing, to pray together ...

This January, churches worldwide will participate in “Eight Days reflecting on our change in Christ.” It is called the World Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Why do most American churches ignore the annual event which began in 1908? Perhaps it is because it is co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches. The vast majority of U.S.churches shun having anything to do with the WCC – and have for decades.

Participants from last year's event

It’s always a real shame when a great idea is shrugged off – particularly since the Week of Prayer isn’t “owned” by the WCC. This year’s official text was approved jointly by the Faith and Order Commission World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome.


But it’s as if your family’s black sheep, Aunt Libby, announces she’s going to celebrate your grandparents’ 48th wedding anniversary with a grand gala. Your mom rolls her eyes and says she’ll take them out to dinner the night before, but will skip Libby’s party since she really needs to stay home to shampoo the rug.

The World Week of Prayer actually was founded by two English clergymen, one Catholic, one Church of England. It gained popularity in the 1930s when it was promoted by a French Catholic layman.

This year, participants are “invited to enter more deeply into our faith that we will all be changed through the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The biblical readings, commentaries, prayers and questions for reflection, all explore different aspects of what this means for the lives of Christians and their unity with one another, in and for today’s world.”

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Rob Kerby
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