Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020
The “Week” of Prayer for Christian Unity traditionally begins on the 18th January, being the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter, and concludes on the 25th January, which is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. However, some areas observe it at Pentecost or some other time.
Our prayer for Christian unity is deeply rooted in the Bible. We pray for unity because Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one, that the world might believe (John 17 : 20 – 21). St Paul also urged the churches to which he wrote to recognise their unity in Christ, even though there was much diversity within them (1 Corinthians 12 – 27).
The materials for the 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by the Christian churches in Malta and Gozo (Christians Together in Malta). The overall theme is “Unusual Kindness”.
On 10th February many Christians in Malta celebrate the Feast of the Shipwreck of St Paul, marking and giving thanks for the arrival of Christian faith on these islands. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (27 : 1 – 28 : 10) used for the feast is the text chosen for this year’s Week of Prayer.
For the churches in Malta, the Bible has special relevance for the shared life of the churches there, for the Gospel first came to Malta in the events that are told in the Acts of the Apostles, where St Paul and those with him encountered unusual kindness from the inhabitants. Many people in Britain and Ireland will have visited Malta on holiday and seen the place where these events are believed to have taken place. This is a reminder that Christianity is not merely a spirituality, but a faith rooted in events in human history: the redemption of humanity and the whole of creation. The unity for which we pray therefore serves to make Christ known in the world.
During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the story of St Paul’s being shipwrecked on Malta, in Acts of the Apostles, chapters 27 and 28, leads us to reflect upon many aspects of our own lives and the lives of our churches. As we approach one another, seeking unity, we recognize that we sometimes carry baggage from history, tradition and cultural expectation, which can weigh us down and threaten to overwhelm us. There is the danger that, in the face of that experience, we might lose sight of the hope which first called us and so give up reaching for the light which Christ offers us.
Through the readings, reflections and prayers we accompany the churches of Malta, praying with and alongside them, praying also for them in their Christian journey as they seek the unity for which Christ prayed. And we rejoice with them that Malta traces its Christian origins back to the time of the Apostles. And in so doing, we enter into the drama of St Paul, those that travelled with him, and the inhabitants whom they met, to discover our shared unity, and thereby recognise the importance of unusual acts of kindness that bear witness to the Gospel of peace and reconciliation.
Readings, Reflections and Prayers for each of the 8 days
are available by clicking here.
[ NB. An Order of Service for Ecumenical Worship is included
after Day 3 and before Day 4, pages 12 to 29. ]