[World Council of Churches] As the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity opened on Jan. 18, the World Council of Churches staff and partners gathered in a spirit of unity to “Do good; seek justice,” the theme of this year’s week. During the prayer, those gathered in person and online confessed “sins of injustice and divisiveness” and embraced unity together.
“Together we come before you, a holy family, united in the beautiful diversity of your creation: some of us are Indigenous peoples, some of us are descendants of the enslaved, some of us are descendants of the enslavers, some of us are migrants, some of us are refugees, but all of us are part of the one Body of Christ,” they prayed.
Cynthia Bailey Manns, director of adult education at Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, offered a reflection. Manns was a member of the drafting committee for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials.
She reflected that contributing to the healing of God’s world requires us to be grounded in God’s love. “We cannot do this work alone, so we engage in this sacred work with trusted spiritual companions and communities, and with God’s unending guidance and presence,” she said. “As Christians, we are forever connected in our responsibility to love and care for others, as we are loved and cared for by God.”
She also said that we are one big family—God’s family. “When it seems the world around us is collapsing, it can be difficult to behave in a way that confirms our interconnectedness,” she said. “Our inhumanity towards one another manifests in our blatant denial of each other’s human dignity and freedom.”
A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service was held the same day in New York City at the Interchurch Center Chapel. In a message, Rev. David Latimore, director of the Betsey Stockton Center for Black Church Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, reflected on the idea of “holy impatience” is a characteristic of people who are seeking justice.
“Delay and difficulty can sometimes rob us of our hope and birth within us a spirit of complacency and acceptance,” he said. “But holy impatience has been a unifying factor for generations of men and women of good intention and good faith.”
Holy impatience is the demand that is lifted up from our communities against injustice and oppression, he continued. “We don’t have to wait—there’s work we can do,” he said. “God, let us leave this day different than we found it.”
About the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
From Jan. 18-25, churches will draw together across the globe to “Do good; seek justice (Isaiah 1:17).”
Christians from Minnesota developed the resources with input from an international group representing the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission. The resources include an ecumenical opening prayer service, biblical reflections and prayers for eight days, and other elements of worship.
Each year ecumenical partners in a different region are asked to prepare the materials.
With roots going back over 100 years, the dedicated octave of prayers has been jointly commissioned and prepared since 1966, after the Second Vatican Council, by the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC.
The materials for 2023 are already available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Arabic.