The 2011 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be grounded in the experience of the churches in Jerusalem, a meeting point of faiths but also a crucible of human conflict.
Resources in four languages for the Week have now been made available on the website of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The theme of the event – “One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer” – was chosen by a group of Christian leaders from Jerusalem and is based on the book of Acts (2.42) in the New Testament. It is described by its instigators as “a call for inspiration and renewal, a return to the essentials of the faith; it is a call to remember the time when the church was still one.”
Traditionally celebrated between 18 and 25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere), the week of prayer mobilises countless congregations and parishes around the world.
During that week, Christians from different confessional families get together and – at least on that occasion – pray together in special ecumenical celebrations.
“The story of Jerusalem – of Christians there, of the convergence and conflict of faiths, and of the political tensions it embodies – is one of inspiration and chastening, hope and realism,” one of those involved in producing the 2011 Week of Prayer materials told Ekklesia.
“The unity of the church we seek is not a mere abstraction,” the WCC General Secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has written in a letter to WCC member churches introducing the prayers for 2011.
He continued: “For Christians in Jerusalem, who live in continuity with the apostolic community of Jerusalem, the mother church of us all, such unity entails prayer, reflection and a cry arising within a context of despair and suffering. Together with them we trust that God is ever vigilant as we pray for peace and justice for all inhabitants of the Holy Land.”
The production of the liturgical and biblical material for the week of prayer has been jointly coordinated since 1968 by the World Council of Churches (Faith and Order Commission) and the Roman Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).
Resources for the week are available in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and include an introduction to the theme; a suggested ecumenical celebration which local churches are encouraged to adapt for their own particular liturgical, social and cultural contexts; biblical reflections and prayers for the “eight days”; and additional prayers from, and an overview of, the ecumenical situation in Jerusalem.
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and indigenous denominations representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.