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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Celebrated on January 18-25 each year


Order materials now for 2009 x

Planners of the 2009 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity selected Ezekiel 37:15-19, 22-24a as its biblical text. The planning committee, this year from Korea, has reflected on the passage's prophecy of the reunited kingdom of Israel. They have seen the division on the Korean peninsula as emblematic of many divisions today where conflict, terror, and war are rooted in religion, ethnicity, and ideologies. Christians will be requested to pray for unity and peacebuilding and to reflect on the journey that leads to this. See the order form for materials from the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute. The international version of the resources is available online.  See also an article about Korean Presbyterian involvement in the ecumenical movement.

One hundred year history

Week of Prayer began in Graymoor, New York

As a sign of the unity that is already theirs in Christ, Christians are encouraged to pray together each January 18-25, during a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, that their unity will become complete and visible. This expression of Christian unity began in 1908, in Graymoor, New York. Since 1968 the World Council of Churches and Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have collaborated annually to select the scriptural theme and accompanying materials for the celebration.


Week of Prayer roots ecumenism locally

James Puglisi, minister general of the Friars of the Atonement, has said the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began as a local observance and its celebration depends upon local circumstances. That is where unity is built through collaboration, mutual respect, and "recognition of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ." The same buildling blocks operate at every level. Catholic News Service reports, "Even those responsible for the Catholic Church's ecumenical relations at the highest levels say they would not and could not do what they do without the personal friendships that are built through prayer and dialogue."

Because they have prayed together during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, churches are sometimes enabled to be together on other occasions, the WCC's Kersten Storch suggested in an essay about the week's history. The essay concludes that divisions in the church "are often – at least to some extent – rooted in ethnic or national identities, in issues of race, social status, gender or sexuality, exclusion of people with disabilities or of those living with HIV/AIDS. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity cannot provide a solution to all these problems. But its celebration every year is a victory over divisions because it expresses the unity which Christians do have in Christ."


Tips offer ideas for local communities

A web site dedicated to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity centenary in 2008 offers some helps:

  • Ten projects to encourage ecumenical involvement in a local community
  • Ten steps for developing an essay contest as a means of promoting thinking and awareness of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
  • Ten tips for celebrating the centenary locally, especially helpful for communities beginning the celebration of the Week of Prayer or seeking to expand their celebration of it
  • Shared ideas from locally communities

The PC(USA) web site has an article (from a previous year) that looks at the Week of Prayer from a Presbyterian perspective.

Previous celebrations

Interim Eucharistic sharing marked Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

To mark the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schor, initiated an invitation for United Methodist minister David Henritzy to co-preside with Episcopal ecumenical officer Bishop Christopher Epting at a special Eucharist at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, with the concurrence of United Methodist Bishop Jeremiah Park of the New York Conference. Of such a celebration, the Episcopal News Service writes:

"Such interim Eucharistic sharing is a step toward full communion and marks sufficient agreement in doctrinal and theological matters. Permission by bishops of both churches must be obtained, an authorized eucharistic liturgy of one of the two churches must be used, and an ordained bishop or presbyter of each church must stand together at the altar for the Eucharistic prayer. This symbolizes that the two churches have reached the point where ordained ministers can stand together at the Table, but not yet interchangeably."

See the common guidelines for bishops, clergy, and laity for the implementation of interim eucharistic sharing between the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church (September 2006).

New 2008 hymns now available for regular use

Two California-based hymn writers won a competition for new hymns to be used during the 2008 Week of Prayer. The simpler of the two, Family of Faith written by Steven Ottomanyi, can be sung to any hymn tune in LM meter and is available to print with the Old Hundredth tune.( page 3) The other, That All May Be One in Christ, has English words by Ricky Manalo plus Spanish and Vietnamese words prepared by others.

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