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Praying Together as Christians
Praying Together as Christians
Next Sunday, 24 May, is the Feast of the Ascension. In Australia the Ascension marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Week of Prayer, which began in the early 1900s, has become an integral part of the ecumenical movement. It provides a special time for the Churches to give thanks to God for what we hold in common as Christians and for what has been achieved in the ecumenical movement, to pray for the unity of the Churches, and to explore options for ongoing local ecumenical commitment. Many local communities will gather for ecumenical worship services during the week to pray that the followers of Christ may all be one so that the world may believe.
Praying with other Christians is officially encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church. The “Ecumenical Directory” issued in 1993 states that: “Prayer in common is recommended for Catholics and other Christians so that together they may put before God the needs and problems they share.” (Directory 109). “Shared prayer should be particularly concerned with the restoration of Christian unity” (Directory 110).
The worship material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year was prepared by Christians in Korea and the theme is “That they may become one in your hand” (Ezekiel 37:17).In their context of national division, the Korean Churches have turned for inspiration to the prophet Ezekiel, who also lived in a tragically divided nation and longed for the unity of his people. For Ezekiel this unity is not simply the joining of previously divided groups; it is rather a new creation, the birth of a new people which should be a sign of hope to other peoples and indeed to all of humanity.
Theresources thereforeofferfresh encouragementto churchesin Australiato worship together locally, to witness to their unity in Christ, and to pray and act for the greater visible expression of that unity, not least in the context of our journey towards national reconciliation.
Each year the Australian Faith and Order Commission adapts the international Week of Prayer material for local use and makes resources available to parishes and schools through State Ecumenical Offices. They are also downloadable from the pages of the NCCA Faith and Unity Commission (www.ncca.org.au/departments/faith_and_unity).
A significant ecumenical event will take place in Brisbane during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year. Friday 29 May is the 25th anniversary of the Signing of a Common Declaration between the Catholic and Anglican dioceses of Brisbane which took place in 1984 in St John’s Anglican Cathedral.
To mark that anniversary and to celebrate our common sesquicentenary anniversary, Anglicans and Catholics will join together in St Stephen’s Cathedral on Friday 29 May at 7.30pm for a combined act of worship and for the signing of a covenant between the Anglican diocese of Brisbane and the Catholic dioceses of Brisbane and Toowoomba.
“Almighty and eternal God, you keep together those you have united. Look kindly on all who follow Jesus your Son. We are all consecrated to you by our common baptism; make us one in the fullness of faith and keep us one in the fellowship of love.” (Opening Prayer, Mass for Unity of Christians)