As Europe continues to reel from the COVID-19 crisis, with communities experiencing separation and isolation, churches are observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in new and innovative ways. Many CEC Member Churches are holding online prayers and celebrations.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the world’s largest annual prayer observance, is traditionally celebrated on 18-25 January, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, especially in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, where January is a vacation time, churches often find other days to celebrate it, for example around Pentecost, also a symbolic date for unity.
The theme for 2021 is “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.”
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church since 1968.
“We are going through challenging times,” said CEC General Secretary Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen. “The so-called ‘social distancing’ in times of a pandemic contradicts the very identity of being Church: community and presence. In Europe and throughout the world, however, we have experienced how prayers have united otherwise distanced communities and individuals.”
“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an opportunity for our member churches and others to feel connected, to pray for the unity of believers that constitutes our fellowship,” he added.
Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, interim WCC deputy general secretary and director of Faith and Order Commission, states that the prayer journey outlined in the Week of Prayer booklet can help us to stay connected as a community even when we need to limit our physical contacts in order to protect the most vulnerable. “Prayer often involves a kind of self-isolation, focusing our minds and hearts on the love of Christ; when we pray for unity, we enter into closer communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said.