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Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
January 14, 2007
United We Stand - Divided We Fall

    The above phrase is familiar to all of us who have some knowledge of History.  However, it also applies very well to this week’s observance of Prayer for Christian Unity.  The week, which is observed worldwide, is traditionally observed from January 18 - 25th in the Northern Hemisphere.  The Southern Hemisphere observe it on another date since January is their summer vacation time.  Unfortunately, many churches do not observe the week with great fan fare.  There are often so many other things happening in our “own” lives that we live the Unity Week to others.  Perhaps we could change this habit slowly but surely.

    A little history of the week may be of interest.  The annual observance of a Prayer for Christian Unity Week began in 1908 with the Episcopal Church at Graymoor, in New York’s Hudson Valley.  This was spearheaded by Paul James Wattson, a priest of the episcopal Church who was a vigorous advocate of Anglican and Roman Catholic reunion.  Lurana Mary White assisted Wattson in getting the annual practice organized.  Wattson was adamant in giving the papacy a role in promoting this week of prayer.  In 1935 a Catholic priest in France advocated a Universal Week of Prayer fo Unity. 

    With the 2nd Vatican Council, 1962-1965, the annual week of prayer was strongly endorsed by Catholics.  The council’s Decree on ecumenism, called prayer the soul of the ecumenical movement and encouraged the observance of what is now known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  By 1991 an observance called ecumenical Sunday had also become fully integrated into the Week of Prayer. 

    Each year the theme and texts for the Week of Prayer are initially prepared by an international group whose members are appointed by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  Working in two language groups, this committee takes its lead from an ecumenical body in a particular part of the world which it invites to propose a scriptural theme and draft texts.

    This year’s theme has its origins in the experience of Christian communities in South Africa in a region of Umlazi, near Durban.  The materials reflect the concerns and experience of a people who have undergone great suffering.  A legacy of racism, unemployment and poverty continues to raise formidable challenges for its people, where there is still a shortage of schools, medical clinics and adequate housing.  The scriptural theme for this year is taken from the Gospel of Mark 7:31-37,  “He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak”. 

    The group developed a biblical framework, centered around hearing, speaking and silence, within which both the search for unity and the search for a Christian response to human suffering find a home.  As we pray the theme, “Open our ears and loosen our tongues”, we refer to the people who are culturally unable to speak out for themselves and even more sadly, the divided Christian churches do not have the power to stand together to fight the ills that plague our brothers and sisters worldwide.  Beginning on the 18th of this month, let us all take some time to pray for Christian Unity that we may, together, stand united and strong enough to conquer ill.
                            Lorette P. Nault