Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021
Abiding in Christ
(originally “Octave of Christian Unity”, i.e. 8 days – 18th to 25th January inclusive)
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.
The full pamphlet, including the Introduction to this year’ theme,
Readings, Reflections and Prayers for each of the 8 days
is available by clicking here.
[ NB. An Order of Service for Ecumenical Worship is included
after Day 2 and before Day 3, on pages 14 to 27. ]
The material for this year has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme that was chosen, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.
Today the community has fifty sisters, all women from different generations, Church traditions, countries and continents. In their diversity the sisters are a living parable of communion. They remain faithful to a life of prayer, life in community and the welcoming of guests. The sisters share the grace of their monastic life with visitors and volunteers who go to Grandchamp for a time of retreat, silence, healing or in search of meaning.
For 2021, the sisters are inviting churches across the world to enter into their tradition of prayer and silence that is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Church catholic.
Bob Fyffe, General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, welcomes us to this year’s Week of Prayer, as follows:
Our spiritual well-being is as important as our physical well-being. In the past year both of these have been seriously challenged: the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to be careful about our own health, taking precautions such as washing hands and wearing facemasks and maintaining social distance. Some of us have been ill or have lost someone close to us. Meanwhile the working lives of many have been disrupted and families kept apart, often at huge personal cost. Perhaps it has made us all more anxious about our health and more aware of our vulnerability.
At the same time church buildings have been closed and worship has been taking place online. Opportunities to worship and pray together have been seriously curtailed. We may well be feeling a sense of isolation from God as well as our neighbour. The period of lockdown that we have lived through has caused us to take a step back to think again about our priorities and the things and people that we value, that make our lives whole. The long periods of absence from extended family and friends, and the inability to share a meal together or celebrate a birthday or a wedding, are examples of this.
When it comes to our spiritual life, what is it that is most important for our well-being?
As Church life was to a large extent paused for the first time for most people, what does it mean to be part of the one Church, the Body of Christ when all we see of our sisters and brothers are on the screen of a laptop?
When the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity invited the sisters of the Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland to produce the material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2021 they could not have foreseen the pandemic and its impact. Yet the Sisters of Grandchamp have offered us something uniquely precious: an opportunity to engage with a form of prayer that is both very ancient and yet at the same time so apposite for our times.
The ancient rhythm of prayer found in many religious orders and their traditions teach us that when we pray, we pray not just on our own or with those who share the same physical space, but with the whole Church, the Body of Christ, of Christians in other places and in different times. This rhythm of prayer, with its traditional forms of structure, hymns and psalms and, perhaps most importantly, silence, might well be an important gift from the ancient Church to the Church of today struggling with pandemics and lockdowns and more widely with some of the serious challenges that our world faces, most particularly climate change, racism and poverty. This tradition of prayer and spirituality, despite the things that hurt and separate us, invites us into shared prayer and silence together. Surely a most precious gift in troubled times.
Come with us during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and enter into a place of community and blessing. Simply “be” in this place and be carried by the prayer and the reality that it is God, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, who carries us and accompanies us. Always.