Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016

18-25th January inclusive at 4.30pm.

The night before his Passion and Death, Jesus said:

“May they all be one,
just as, Father,
you are in me and I am in you” Jn 17:21

Each year from 18-25th January, Christians of all denominations unite around the world to pray for this great desire of the heart of Jesus—that we may all be one. Here at Kilmacud Carmelite Monastery we dedicate our Evening Prayer at 4.30pm for this intention each day during the Week of Prayer.  All are welcome to join us. 

QUICK LINKS:             THEME & BIBLICAL TEXT 2016           

                                    ECUMENISM IN LATVIA

                                    DAILY REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS

                                    QUOTES AND PHOTOS FROM EACH DAY AT KILMACUD

                                    PREVIOUS YEARS

                                                                     
THEME:        Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord (1 Pet 2:9)

BIBLICAL TEXT FOR 2016: 1 Peter 2: 9-10

“… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Guest speakers at the Carmelite Monastery this week:

Mon 18th: Reflection by a Carmelite Sister
Tues 19th: Rev. Stephen Taylor, Dundrum Methodist Church
Wed 20th: 
Reflection by a Carmelite Sister
Thurs 21st: 
Rev. Gillian Wharton, Booterstown and Carysfort wtih Mount Merrion, C. of Ireland
Fri 22nd:  
Reflection by a Carmelite Sister 
Sat  23rd: 
Rev. Ian Gallagher, St. Brigid’s Church of Ireland, Stillorgan
Sun 24th: 
Rev. Tony Coote Adm., Mount Merrion & Kilmacud parishes
Mon 25th: 
Sr Mary O'Driscoll OP, Dominican Sisters, Cabra

ECUMENISM IN LATVIA

This text is reproduced under the sole authority and responsibility of the ecumenical group in Latvia which came together to write the source texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016.

“Living ecumenism”: these words describe the ecumenical situation in Latvia today. Christians from different traditions are increasingly meeting each other for common prayer and common witness in a growing number of places and occasions. Part of this dynamic comes from the fact that the three largest confessions are approximately equal in size, while the smaller churches are very active. Latvia is a kind of watershed between the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions. According to official data released in 2011, 34.3% of the population are Lutherans, 25.1% are Roman Catholics, 19.4% are Orthodox and Old Believers, 1.2% belong to other Christian churches (such as Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, and other free churches), while 20% identify themselves as of other religions or no religion. Latvia officially acknowledges six religious traditions: Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox, Old Believers and Jews. 

Although churches in Latvia have not come together in a national council of churches, ecumenical life goes on bearing good fruit. Cooperation among Christians in Latvia is vital today ifthe Christianmessage is toreachcontemporarypost-modernsocietyin all itsdiversity andabundance of opinions. The ecumenical cooperation and relationships between different denominations in Latvia, is, one could say, based on proclaiming the mighty acts of the Lord.

It is a regular practice in Latvia that bishops from the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Baptist churches address a common message to society on issues of ethics, the protection of life, or social justice. Due to the fraternal relationships between the heads of the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran churches in Latvia, the consecration of the present Roman Catholic Archbishop took place in the Lutheran Cathedral of Rīga. 

The leaders of the different churches join together during the celebration of the most important remembrance daysand holidays, such as the National Independence Day on November 18th. The Word of God is proclaimed,speeches are made andmusicians from many Christian churches are engaged. These same leaders meet together annually in the Spiritual Affairs Council at which the Prime Minister presides. In liaising with the State the four main Christian traditions jointly produced materials to be used in State schools which was approved by the Ministry of Education.

However, relationships between bishops and clergy of Latvian Christian Churches go beyond ecumenical services: they are rooted in genuine friendship. This challenges the dividing walls built in earlier centuries, and allows each to recognise in the other a fellow minister of the Gospel. Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist bishops meet regularly. They pray, praise God together in a fraternal atmosphere, and discuss issues relevant to Latvia.

There are also many examples of ecumenical cooperation among communities and at parish level. There are, for example, jointly organised evangelisation programmes based on the Alpha Course. The Catholic parishes of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and St Mary Magdalene, the Rīga Luther Church in Tornakalns, and the Baptist community in Āgenskalns join together in fellowship, social projects, and in publishing a calendar. Since the year 2000, the different Christian communities in Madona celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity each day in a different community. Through this experience many come to meet their brothers and sisters from other Christian traditions for the first time. A special fruit of this experience was the creation of the first ecumenical prayer chapel in Latvia, where brothers and sisters of different confessions can pray. The doors of the chapel are open day and night. Catholics and Lutherans take turns and ensure a constant prayerful presence in the chapel.

Besides activities organized by churches or parishes, there are several ecumenical initiatives undertaken by highly motivated individual Christians. An eloquent example is the opening of the first ecumenical St John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene chapel in the small village of Igate. The building of the chapel was a private initiative. It is used by people from the four major Latvian Christian traditions – Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox and Baptist. The building was blessed on 18thJanuary 2013 by the Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist bishops. One of the special intentions of the people from Igate is to pray for children, born and unborn, and for their mothers, and to help them.

Another example of individual initiative was the Gaizins Summit. A lay Christian invited the heads of the different Latvian churches to meet together at Latvia’s highest hill, Gaizins, for fellowship and prayer. They accepted. For the duration of these meetings they were supported in continuous prayer and worship by the faithful. This gathering has been organized seven times so far, and many more church leaders have joined.

What Unites Us? is a journal launched ten years ago by an individual lay person. It was inspired by a deep longing for the unity of the Church. In the first issue it focused exclusively on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Later on its different issues were dedicated to specific ecumenical themes. The journal is distributed free of charge in local communities of different churches.  

Ecumenical co-operation can be found in the various prayer groups and communities of “Chemin Neuf”, “Blue Cross”, and “Kalnskola”, “Effata” as well as in social action projects such as prison chaplaincy, and in the Rehabilitation Centre for former drug and alcohol addicts, the “Bethlehem House of Mercy”. In all these movements and organizations, in daily prayer and mission, Christians from different churches join hands and contribute to Christian unity with their everyday service.

As Latvia is rich in Christian traditions, this influences family life. There are many inter-church couples that have to face in daily life all the questions related to the remaining divisions among Christian churches, such as wedding ceremonies, catechesis of children, attendance of Sunday services, and, most importantly for practising Christians, Holy Communion.

Christian families also face the problems presented by our modern globalised society. Dedicated particularly to serving families, the “Cana Fraternity” has been active in Latvia since 1994. Ecumenical family festivals, designed to draw attention to family issues and strengthen families, started in 2006 in cooperation with the municipality of Rīga. These events are especially supported by different free churches in Latvia in cooperation with the three larger traditions.

Media is very important for evangelization. An ecumenical team produces Christian programmes that are regularly broadcast by the Latvian State Radio and which promote unity and fellowship amongst Latvian Christians. A Catholic video information centre, “Emanuels”, produces the television programme “Vertikale” on Latvia’s Channel 1. The programmes try to show what unites Christians rather than what divides them. The producers of the programmes look for witnesses of Christ among the Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists and other Christian communities. In addition there is an evangelical radio station, “Latvian Christian Radio”, with many programmes of ecumenical relevance.

The Way of the Cross, celebrated every year, takes place on Good Friday in the streets of several cities in Latvia – Kuldiga, Valmiera, Madona, Liepāja amongst others. In Rīga, the Ecumenical Way of the Cross is organized by the Catholic Youth Centre of the Archdiocese of Rīga and brings together thousands of people, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals and other churches as well as Catholics. At the head of the procession the bishops and ministers of different churches walk side by side. Besides the usual contents of the Way of the Cross, it includes appropriate performances by professional actors from various theatres of Latvia, who also are from different denominations. This prayer unites people not only in a religious, spiritual way, but also in a cultural way. In this shared moment of devotion and reflection all Christians are united by the prayer of the Way of the Cross: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”



DAILY REFLECTIONS

Printable (pdf) version of these daily reflections


DAY 1: Mon 18th Jan:  Let the stone be rolled away
Today’s reflections are prepared by the Catholic Youth Centre of the Archdiocese of Rīga, and spring from their experience of organising an Ecumenical Way of the Cross: a very influential annual ecumenical event in the life of Latvia.
Latvia’s Soviet history continues to cast a shadow over the people of this nation. There is still much grief and pain; wounds inflicted which are difficult to forgive. All of this is like the large stone which covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. But if, in our suffering, our pain is united to his pain, then the story does not end here, locked in our graves. The earthquake of the Lord’s resurrection is the earth-shaking event that opens our graves and frees us from the pain and bitterness that hold us in isolation from one another. This is the mighty act of the Lord: his love, which shakes the earth, which rolls away the stones, which frees us, and calls us out into the morning of a new day. Here, at this new dawn we are re-united with our brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned and hurting too.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.

DAY 2: Tues 19th Jan:  Called to be messengers of joy
In the Soviet era a Christian presence through public media was impossible in Latvia. After independence, Latvian State Radio began broadcasting Christian programmes with a focus on unity and mission, providing a forum for leaders from diverse churches to encounter one another. This public witness of mutual respect, love and joy contributed to the spirit of Latvian ecumenical life and inspired this reflection.
The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed”. When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigour to proclaim the joy that comes from Jesus. Nevertheless, by bearing witness to the little that we have, Jesus multiplies it in us and in the people around us. This mutual love and mutual joy is at the heart of our prayer for unity. As the psalmist says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
Prayer
God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfil the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

DAY 3: Wed 20th Jan:  The witness of fellowship
For over a decade Chemin Neuf, an international Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation, has been present in Latvia, with both Catholic and Lutheran members. Together they experience the joy that comes from fellowship in Christ, as well as the pain of disunity. As a sign of this division, they  place an empty paten and chalice on the altar during evening prayer. Their experience inspired this reflection.
Division amongst Christians is an obstacle to evangelisation. We feel the pain of this division when we cannot receive together the body and blood of Christ at the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity. The source of our joy is our common life in Christ. To live our life of fellowship every day is to welcome, love, serve, pray and witness with Christians from diverse traditions. It is the pearl of great value given to us by the Holy Spirit. The night before his death, Jesus prayed for unity and love amongst us. Today we pray with Jesus for Christian unity. We pray for the bishops, ministers and members of all churches. We pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us all on this path of unity.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.

DAY 4: Thurs 21st Jan:
A priestly people called to proclaim the Gospel
These reflections were inspired by the producers of the Sunday morning Christian programme Vertikale. The challenge of maintaining this Christian voice on Latvian national television has taught them that it is only when we learn to recognise other Christians as brothers and sisters that we can dare take God’s Word into the public space.
In today’s world more than ever, words flood into our homes: no longer just from our conversations, but from television, radio and now from social media. These words have the power to build up and to knock down. Much of this ocean of words seems meaningless: diversion rather than nourishment. But we have heard a saving Word; it has been thrown to us as a lifeline. It calls us into communion, and draws us into unity with others who have heard it too. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people. More than this, we are a priestly people. United with others who have received his Word, our words are no longer mere drops lost in the ocean. Now we have a powerful Word to speak. United we can speak it powerfully: 
Yeshua – God saves.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, you said that everyone will know that we are your disciples if there is love among us. Strengthened by your grace, may we work tirelessly for the visible unity of your Church, so that the Good News that we are called to proclaim will be seen in all our words and deeds. Amen.

DAY 5: Fri 22nd Jan: 
The fellowship of the Apostles
The fellowship of Christian leaders shapes the visible expression of ecumenical life in Latvia. They gather regularly at Gaizins, Latvia’s highest hill, and other locations, for a 40-hour period of prayer and simple fellowship around shared meals.  For the duration of these meetings they are supported  in non-stop prayer and worship by the faithful. The experience of the founder of the Latvia House of Prayer for All Peoples inspired this reflection.
Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not theoretical. Our communion of love with one another becomes concrete when we gather as Christ’s disciples, to share fellowship and prayer in the power of the Spirit. The more that Christians encounter Christ together in humility and patience, the more prejudice diminishes, and we become authentic witnesses to the kingdom of God. Joyful fellowship, a shared meal and common prayer and praise are ways of apostolic simplicity. In these we obey the commandment to love one another, and proclaim our Amen to Christ’s prayer for unity.
Prayer
God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that with the eyes of our hearts we may see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above and through all and in all. Amen.

DAY 6: Sat 23rd Jan:  Listen to this dream
Christian disunity hurts. Churches suffer from their inability to be united as one family at the Lord’s Table; they suffer from rivalry and from histories of combativeness. One individual response to disunity emerged in 2005 in the form of an ecumenical journal: Kas Mus Vieno? (“What unites us?”). The experience of producing the journal inspired this reflection.
Joseph has a dream, but when he shares his dream with his brothers they react with anger and violence. Ultimately famine drives them to Egypt and they do bow before Joseph, but rather than abasement, it is a moment of reconciliation and grace. Jesus unfolds to us a vision about the life of his Father’s kingdom. It is a vision of unity. But we are often upset, angered and fearful of what it seems to imply.  But the vision is not about loss. Rather, it is about regaining brothers and sisters we had lost, the reuniting of a family. The vision must take flesh in our lives. Most of all it is realised in the love we show for one another.
Prayer
Heavenly Father, grant us humility to hear your voice, to receive your call, and to share your dream for the unity of the Church. Help us to be awake to the pain of disunity. Where division has left us with hearts of stone, may the fire of your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts and inspire us with the vision of being one in Christ, as he is one with you, so that the world may believe that you have sent him. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

DAY 7: Sun 24th Jan:  Hospitality for prayer
The experience of praying together on each of the eight days of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has helped Christians in the small town of Madona to come together in friendship. A particular fruit of this has been the opening of an ecumenical prayer chapel in the centre of town, complete with elements from Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Here the Christians of Madona join in continuous round the clock prayer.
As long as God’s people are divided, and Christians are estranged from one another, we are like Jesus in Samaria, strangers in a foreign land, without safety, without refreshment and without a place of rest. The people of Israel longed for a place of safety where they could worship the Lord. Isaiah tells us of the Lord’s mighty act: he posted sentinels on the walls of Jerusalem so that his people could worship him in safety day and night. In the Week of Prayer our churches and chapels become places of safety, rest and refreshment for people to join in prayer. The challenge from this week is to create more places and times of prayer, because as we pray together, we become one people.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, you asked your apostles to stay awake with you and to pray with you. May we offer the world protected times and spaces in which to find refreshment and peace, so that praying together with other Christians we may come to know you more deeply. Amen.

DAY 8: Mon 25th Jan:  Hearts receiving mercy burning for unity
Different churches in Latvia have been able to work together in evangelisation through the use of the Alpha Course, developed in the Anglican Church of Holy Trinity, Brompton, London. Latvians who have come to faith through this programme remain open to learning and being enriched by the gifts of other Christian communities. This experience inspired the following reflections.
The disappointed disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus have lost their hope that Jesus was the Messiah and walk away from their community. It is a journey of separation and isolation. By contrast, they return to Jerusalem full of hope with a Gospel message on their lips. It is this resurrection message that drives them back into the heart of the community and into a communion of fellowship. So often Christians try to evangelise with a competitive spirit, hoping to fill their own churches. Ambition overrides the desire for others to hear the life-giving message of the Gospel. True evangelism is a journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem, a journey from isolation into unity.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.

 

QUOTES AND PHOTOS FROM EACH DAY AT KILMACUD

Mon 18th: Let the stone be rolled away
Reflection by a Carmelite Sister

 Latvia, the smallest of the Baltic States - smaller even than Ireland... has been a religious and political battleground for centuries.  During these years Christians were united in common witness even to the point of martyrdom, unbearable torture and exile to Siberia. They know what it was like to feel like a Valley of Dry Bones. Their beloved homeland was razed to the ground - they dwelt in a living grave... the bond of suffering created deep communion among the Christians in Latvia... and they got the grace to offer their sufferings in union with the suffering of Jesus. Singing and praying together, they experienced a resurrection power breathed into them. Unarmed citizens built barricades in the streets of Riga and stood shoulder to shoulder in defiance of Soviet tanks - and witnessed to the Mighty Act of the Lord in 1991 with the collapse of this Goliath Russia. The liberated Latvian people could make their own the Psalmist's "resurrection song": Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens... You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again..." Ps71.

Photo: The Christian Unity display in our chapel this week, with a Latvian theme and a lamp which will burn continuously for the 8 days.  The backdrop is maroon, the colour of the Latvian flag, with some small flags on it, and the literature gives some background information about this years' theme and Christianity in Latvia.

Tues 19th: Called to be messengers of joy
Rev. Stephen Taylor, Dundrum Methodist Church

We are across the world some 9000 different denominations… and every time there is a new denomination it is because there has been some kind of conflict, some kind of falling out, some dispute and brothers and sister have been unable to dwell together in harmony…. We all have a unity in Christ Jesus…

The only way of breaking down conflict is to cross the boundary, to walk across the road and take another by the hand and say: “I’d like to get to know you; I’d like to understand how you think…”

Our identity is not just with those around us. Our identity is with He who is within us… It is Christ dwelling in us that is the hope of glory. This provides the greatest incentive there is for us to be united.

Christ describes the church as the vine… he implores us to “abide in the vine”. In this we find joy… If we want joy in our lives… then we must heed his words to us. What is the secret to this joy? It is to “abide in the vine”. Abiding in the vine has three aspects to it… Firstly, being close to Jesus, being grafted into Him… being close to Him in prayer, searching the Scriptures, sitting at His feet… The second key to this joy is being close to one another in Christ. We are not each grafted into a single stem of the vine, we are all grafted into the one stem of the vine. We have branches all around us… Jesus says: “Love one another, just as I have loved you”… how shamefully we have given people reason over the centuries and in every place an excuse not to see that we are His disciples, because of our lack of love for one another. The third key is bearing fruit… we are to glorify God according to the way we live our lives and reflect God’s love for the world. We are to continue the ministry of Jesus…

When we abide in the vine, joy is assured, it is a gift, regardless of our circumstances or our health or social standing or education. It is a gift dependant entirely on Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Wed 20th:  The witness of fellowship
Reflection by a Carmelite Sister  

We have been discovering in the past few days that there is a living ecumenism in Latvia. Christians from different traditions are increasingly meeting each other for common witness in a growing number of places and occasions. Leaders from the Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist churches often address a common message to society on relevant issues. There are many examples of ecumenical co-operation, like the creation of the first ecumenical chapel - the Gaizins Summit. Ecumenical co-operation can be found in the various prayer groups and communities of Chemin Neuf. Together they feel the joy that comes from fellowship in Christ.  The brothers and sisters of the community are members of the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, Reformed Churches, Lutheran, Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches. They choose to live and pray and evangelise together, without giving up their own identity and remain in communion with their respective churches.

The Christians of Latvia also experience the pain of disunity. As a sign of this division they place an empty paten and chalice on the altar during evening prayer. So, Day 3 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a poignant moment for we must pause and let it sink deeply into us that division among Christians is an obstacle to Evangelisation. It is difficult for the world to believe that we are Jesus' followers while our love for one another is incomplte.

The constitutions of the Chemin Neuf community states:
We experience the vision Fr Paul Couturier received in 1944 as an appeal made to the Chemin Neuf community and communion as a whole: "If each Thursday evening in weekly commemoration of that Great Thursday, an ever increasing multitude of Christians of every denomination were to form an immense network circling the earth, like a vast invisible monastery in which all would be taken up into the Prayer of Christ for Unity, would it not be the dawn of Christian Unity breaking over the world?"


Thurs 21st: priestly people called to proclaim the Gospel
Rev. Gillian Wharton, 
Booterstown and Carysfort wtih Mount Merrion, Church of Ireland

I sometimes wonder when reading that parable [of The Sower Matt 13] is the problem not so much with those who are the soil and hearing the Word of God, receiving the seed, but with us – the people who are the sowers – whether we are lay or ordained, whether in religious life or not… We need to look at the responsibility for ourselves, in how we spread the seed of the Word and what we get across when we spread that Word. When you look sometimes at the things that have happened when people on behalf of the church – (on behalf of all denominations) when they have talked about mercy (and we are in the year of celebrating God’s mercy) but not shown it… what does it say to those who are receiving the word… they perhaps listen to what we say but more importantly look at what we do and question the integrity and the truth and the veracity of our words. Perhaps it is our actions that sometimes are the obstacles and the inhibitors of God’s word…

 
 
The Word of God has integrity when it changes us and excites us to live it out each day… but there are people who talk about ecumenism in the hope that it will never happen because then they will have nothing to talk about!! We often say that we want Christian unity, we want to enrich and embrace, and yet sometimes the reality that people experience is anything but welcome and all-embracing. And so the words that we say, and the Gospel we proclaim and the seeds we are sowing can be empty seeds.

 
This week of prayer of Christian Unity in some ways has lost its impetus because of our meeting and mixing over the last number of decades has meant that it is no longer the novelty to pray together that it used to be… we have grown… and now perhaps we need to grow even more and say: “who are we together as Christians”. Over recent months we have seen in the media how people are pushing for non-faith schools. They have said there is nothing to be gained about their children going to faith schools, they don’t want their children to be part of any kind of faith influence or faith formation… why is that? Why is it that people have become so negative about faith and the richness that faith has to offer? Is it because their hearts are hard, their hearts are stony soil, or their minds are places where thorns grow up?  Or is it because they have looked at us as Christians and perhaps seen a lack of integrity, a lack of veracity, a lack of real truth and depth in our Gospel? We can’t always look to others and think it is their fault… we have to look at ourselves and the kind of people that God calls us to be. Is the God of the Scripture, portrayed by Jesus Christ, very different to the God that we portray as Christians of different denominations?

 Fri 22nd: The fellowship of the Apostles 

Reflection by a Carmelite Sister

Thinking about these first Christians should lead us to have compassion on our own leaders today. No matter how good they are, they are not God! They are fallible human beings. Let’s not just pray for leaders of our own denomination, but for all Christian leaders. They need our prayers and our encouragement. They also need fellowship with one another.... Perhaps there are many quiet meetings amongst pastors of different denominations, and this is good. However, it is also good for everyone to see some public gestures of fellowship, in order that the leaders give us example and witness of friendship with each other.

It is our Baptism that makes us all leaders… we are already leaders… we are all priests, prophets, kings and queens. That teaching comes also from the overall theme for this Week of Prayer from 1 Peter. Immediately before the verse calling us to “proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord”, we are told: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet 2:9). In the Bible, anointing is a sign of leadership – the kings and prophets were seen as “anointed ones”. We are all anointed ones too, from our Baptism. Therefore, we can all be leaders in the faith to others in so many ways, to people we encounter every day. We can give witness to Christ by our love for others. Jesus says: “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
Where can all of us, as baptised “leaders”, go to be with each other? Rev. Stephen Taylor gave us the answer last Tuesday evening. He told us that the place of real Christian Unity is in our hearts, in that secret place where we encounter Christ. With Him, we meet all our brothers and sisters.

Many holy places in Ireland must seem exclusively Catholic to people of other denominations. In a time when our Christian values are being attacked by society, the media and even by some of our political leaders, I feel saddened that there isn’t really a common “pilgrimage site”, so to speak. 
I would like to see a more ecumenical outreach from Knock Shrine. I believe that Knock is a suitable shrine for all Christians to come together. Knock is unique because it presents us with the vision of the book of Revelation – the victory of the Lamb of God, who is Jesus Christ. 
In our secular society, wouldn’t it be a powerful witness to see Christians of every denomination gather there to give united witness to our future destiny and also to the fact that the Living Lamb of God is on His throne of mercy to heal all wounds, hear our prayers and unite us in love and peace?


Sat 23rd: Listen to this dream
Rev. Ian Gallagher,  St Brigid's Church of Ireland, Stillorgan 

In a sermon, Martin Luther King said: “Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel; this was my first calling and still remains my greatest commitment. You know that all I do in the civil rights movement, I do because I consider it part of my ministry. I have no other ambition in life than to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for public office I don’t plan to do anything but to remain a preacher of the Gospel…”

 He just wanted to do God’s will. Now we’ve all heard many times that great speech that he made in Washington DC in 1963, how he had a dream about what America could become. The last paragraph of that speech goes on to say:

 “When we allow freedom to reign we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:  Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, we’re free at last!”

 We know that even now 53 years later, that dream has yet to be fully realised… but there are people who are committed to work towards its realisation – people from different backgrounds, different faiths and sometimes none. Christian unity is a dream that at least to the outside world is a dream not yet fully realised, but it’s a dream that lots of people continue to work towards. In many ways it might be nearer than we think. Not that different denominations are going to suddenly amalgamate, but that we can work together for the good of the Gospel. One thing that we’ve got to remember is that we’re all part of the Jesus movement, struggling like Martin Luther King to see a dream fulfilled.


Sun  24th: Hospitality for prayer
Rev. Tony Coote Adm., Mount Merrion & Kilmacud parishes 

I heard prayer once called “cool living water in the heat of the day”. Every human being created by God needs that “cool living water in the heat of the day”. God is not going to hear prayers in terms of denomination. God will not even hear the words on the lips, but only the words of the heart. And so prayer unites us all, no matter who we are or what our faith is, Christian or non-Christian.

 
Remember that Jesus didn’t receive much hospitality when he was on the earth. Most people rejected him, even in his own town. It was usually the sinner, the person aware of their own need of mercy who brings Jesus in and gives him hospitality. Hospitality is the great gift, they say, of the Irish, but hospitality is the great gift of the Christian.

When we come in this Week of Christian Unity we know that prayer unites us and will never divide us. What divides us are rules set up along the way that were never envisaged by Jesus. He founded a religion from Judaism to Christianity. He didn’t want us to be split in other denominations. He only wants us to share the banner: “Christian”. And when we share that banner, and when we stop looking under it for other difference, being united is no problem at all. It’s only when we get under that unifying banner and we start looking at each other for difference that the problems start. And indeed, wasn’t that the same for Jesus. When he was on the earth, people began to look at him differently, to hear him differently, and only to think of the difference, and forget about the message.

 
So hospitality and prayer are at the heart of the Christian message, the living of it. They are at the heart of the celebration of Christianity. They are at the beginning of the Church in Acts – when people go into each others homes, they break bread, they shared, they pray and distribute what they have for the poor. So, prayer, hospitality and mercy – we don’t have to profess a particular denomination to try and live them and have them in our heart.

 

Sun 25th: Hearts receiving mercy burning for unity
Sr Mary O'Driscoll, Dominican Sisters, Cabra

“The Lord heals the broken-hearted and binds up all their wounds”

Are we broken-hearted enough about the lack of Christian unity in and among our churches that we cry out to God for help? Are we sufficiently aware of the wounds that we have inflicted on one another over the years that we implore our merciful God to bind these wounds up so that we together can truly be the Christian people in the fullness of God’s overwhelming mercy?

 No mother or father wants to see their children fighting with one another, or deeply hostile to one another or intent on knocking one another down. The message we get from Scripture is that no matter how weak we are, or how many issues divide us, our faithful and graciously compassionate God who is both Father and Mother is there waiting to help us.

 Michael Paul Gallagher wrote an article on God’s mercy where he reminds us that God’s love when it encounters suffering or weakness or need in any form shows itself as mercy. To evoke God’s love in our desire for oneness in the Body of Christ, is to evoke God’s mercy.

 It is God’s mercy at work in Jesus Christ that is constantly calling us Christians from disunity to unity. In his parables, Jesus presents his merciful Father as the one who never gives up until the lost has been found… There’s a sense in which all of us engaged in the quest for Christian unity can feel somewhat lost, but our merciful God is forever seeking us out, wanting us to be found and to find one another.

 How can we, today’s Christians, witness in concrete, practical ways to our love for others and our desire for unity? Is there anything in our attitude or behaviour that needs to change? Jean Vanier reflecting on the need to show compassion towards those who are different from ourselves urges: “Go down the ladder of your humanity. Get in touch with your own weakness, brokenness, prejudices, fears, hopes, and from there try to understand something of others’ questions and doubts, desires and concerns, pain and hurt…”

It is in going down the ladder of our humanity where we, again and again experience God’s mercy towards us, that we can best understand and listen compassionately to those who are different from ourselves and hopefully enter into greater communion with them.

LINKS TO PREVIOUS YEARS' WEEK OF PRAYER AT KILMACUD

2014: Has Christ been divided? 

Speakers:     Rev. Ian Gallagher, St Brigid's Church of Ireland, Stillorgan
                   Dr Geraldine Smyth, Irish School of Ecumenics
                   Rev. Canon Robert Warren, Taney Parish, Church of Ireland, Dundrum
                   Rev.Tony Coote, Adm., Kilmacud & Mount Merrion Parishes

                   Rev.Jameson Kunjukunju, Mar Thoma Syrian Church

2015: Jesus said to her: "Give me a drink "

Speakers:     Rev. Katherine Meyer, United Methodist/Presbyterian Church, Sandymount
                    Rev. Robert Opala OCD, Carmelite Community, Oxford, UK
                    
Rev. Ian Gallagher, St Brigid's Church of Ireland, Stillorgan
                  
 Rev.Tony Coote, Adm., Kilmacud & Mount Merrion Parishes
                    Mrs. Alex Fromholz, Lay Teacher/Leadership Team, Holy Trinity Church of Ireland,                                 Rathmines
                  


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