Monday, January 18, 2010

"You Are Witnesses of These Things" - When Is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity?

The above is the winning poster of the competition conducted by the Canadian Council of Churches for the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 17-24). It is by Kevin Combe, who has been working as a graphic designer/illustrator for the past eight years.

Kevin and his wife Diana are parishioners at the joint parishes of Mary Queen of Peace and St-David in Pierrefonds, Quebec. Both have been Parish Catechetical Leaders of the Faith First program at Mary Queen of Peace for the past two years.

The poster's symbolism is straight-forward: Dove = The Holy Spirit and the Light of the World. People = Christians rejoicing as children of light and witnesses for the Lord. Shadows = Reflection of our own cross and salvation through Jesus Christ.

Here is another expression of the theme taken from the closing verses [especially 24:48] of St. Luke's Gospel:


To prepare for the upcoming Week of Christian Unity (see details below), I hosted a meeting with members of the CCCA on Saturday evening over dessert and coffee. There were representatives of some of the mainline Christian bodies present: Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Mennonite,Presbyterian, United churches.

During our time together, we prayed, exchanged on issues of common concern and strove to be together witnesses to the Good News made manifest in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Excellent material, excerpts of which are reproduced below, is found on the website of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism at - which I am happy to recommend. Interspersed with this information are some pictures from our recent ecumenical gathering.

Eight days of prayer The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the days between the feasts of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch (January 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25), and therefore have a symbolic significance.

In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time, churches often find other days to celebrate the Week of Prayer, for example around Pentecost (which was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the church.

Mindful of this flexibility concerning the date, we encourage you to understand the material available on websites and from church denominations/bodies as an invitation to find opportunities throughout the year to express the degree of communion which the churches have already received, and to pray together for that full unity which is Christ’s will.

Huit jours de prière La période traditionnelle de l'hémisphère Nord pour la Semaine de Prière pour l'Unité Chrétienne est 18 à 25 Janvier. Ces dates furent proposées en 1908 par Paul Wattson de manière à couvrir la période entre les fêtes de saint Pierre et saint Paul, et ont donc une signification symbolique.

Dans l'hémisphère sud où Janvier est un temps de vacances, les églises ont souvent d'autres jours pour célébrer la Semaine de Prière, par exemple autour de la Pentecôte (ce qui était suggéré par le mouvement Foi et Constitution en 1926), qui est également une date symbolique pour l'unité de l'église.

En gardant cette flexibilité concernant la date, nous vous encourageons à comprendre le matériel présenté ici comme une invitation à trouver des opportunités tout au long de l'année, pour exprimer le degré de communion que les églises ont déjà reçu, et à prier ensemble pour que l'unité complète qui est volonté du Christ.

Canadian observances In Canada, the Week of Prayer is normally observed in January on dates that include the two Sundays between which January 25 falls. Churches are always encouraged to pray for Christian unity at whatever time is most appropriate for local circumstances. Some groups have celebrated a Week between Ascension and Pentecost, and others have chosen an autumn date. Whatever you choose, the resources are available to support your planning.

A note about the dates for the Week of Prayer in 2010 As many people have noticed, there is some confusion about the Canadian dates for the Week in 2010. This is the result of a decision made last fall. The normal international dates are January 18th to 25th.

In Canada the week is normally shifted to span from Sunday to Sunday, with January 25th falling somewhere in the Week. This year, it was decided to shift the dates to January 17th to 24th to be closer to the international observances. However, this decision was apparently made too late to be included in some national church calendars. Local communities celebrating the Week of Prayer are encouraged to select dates that maximize opportunities for participation.

Finallly, the Ordo for the Roman Catholic dioceses of Canada indicates January 24th-31st as the dates for the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

1 comment:

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