The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The theme for 2017 was

‘Crossing Barriers’ 2 Corinthians 5: 14-20

This from Germany 500th Anniversary of the German Reformation.

Further details can be downloaded at


The theme for 2016 was

‘Salt of the Earth’ 1 Peter 2: 9-10

This from the Churches in Latvia

Further details and resources can be found at


The theme for 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is

‘The Well is Deep’ John 4: 7- 15.

This year we revert back to the traditional time of 18th -25th January despite the fear of inclement weather. The United Reformed Church Epsom will host our Unity Service in celebration of our united belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. A number of pamphlets will be available for use in some churches.

The International Material is developed by the International Committee for the Week of Prayer which is composed of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. This is used as a basis for our national resources, developed by writers from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales on behalf of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Our aims are to pray as Christ prayed “That they may be one” and to pray for the unity of all Christian people as we share Christ’s ministry.

The Week of Prayer offers opportunities to meet and pray with fellow Christians of different denominations in your locality. Often new local initiatives emerge out of such meeting and praying together.

This year’s theme comes to us from the churches of Brazil. Brazilians, who have traditionally been tolerant of their various social classes and ethnic groups, are now living through a time of growing intolerance made manifest in high levels of violence especially against minorities and the vulnerable. The logic that undergirds this kind of behaviour is competition for the religious market. Increasingly some Christian groups compete with one another for a place on the mass media, for new members and for public funds. The Brazilian Churches have begun to recognise that intolerance should be dealt with in a positive way – respecting diversity and promoting dialogue as a permanent path for reconciliation and peace in fidelity to the Gospel.  We can share this recognition. Although the competition between churches is less obvious in our islands, we are well aware that competition and violent discrimination lie beneath the surface of our lives together. Jesus challenges us to acknowledge that diversity is part of God’s design, to approach one another in trust and to see the face of God in the face of all men and women.

Juliet Galipeau


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014

Traditionally celebrated each year 18th to and inclusive of 25th January.

What are the aims of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity?

To pray as Christ prayed ‘That they may be one’

To pray for the unity of all Christian people as we share Christ’s ministry.

This year’s theme: Is Christ Divided? (1 Corinthians 1:1-17)

The international material this year comes to us from the Churches of French Canada.  Canadians live in a country that is marked by diversity in language, culture, and even climate, and it also embodies diversity in expressions of Christian faith.  Living with this diversity, but being faithful to Christ’s desire for the unity of his disciples, has led them to reflection on Paul’s provocative question in 1 Corinthians, “Has Christ, been divided?”  In faith we respond, “No!” yet our church communities continue to endure scandalous divisions. 

So during the Week Of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2014 Christians from all over the world will explore in ecumenical fellowship (consider joining our regular monthly local ecumenical prayer group – see ‘News’ on this website) the many blessings and gifts we receive from God and how our response to their abundance is to treat each other and our world with dignity and respect.

Are there other ways of observing the Week of Prayer?

Our hope is that local churches will be creative in the ways they mark the Week of Prayer.  Sometimes Pilgrimage around the churches is organised – on each of the eight days in a different church, following the daily Bible readings.  This permits each church to worship in its own style and offer hospitality to others.  Some people organise daily prayers in their place of work.  Church schools may put on services or events.  Or there may be a United Service in your locality to which all churches are invited, perhaps rotating between the churches to host, for that particular year.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014 has resources in the pamphlet (a number of which are allotted to most of the church communities in Epsom) which will also be available to download from the CTBI website from August 2013, along with a non liturgical worship outline, a PowerPoint and other additional material. 



The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Wednesday 18th to Wednesday 25th January 2012


‘We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ’

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Traditionally ‘the Week’ is observed from 18th to the 25th (eight days) the celebration of St. Paul’s Conversion.  However some groups observe this prayer time around Pentecost which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the church.


Resources in the pamphlets are available for download from the CTBI website published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland at along with additional material and background information.


Pamphlets, of which a sample number will be shared between the main churches in Epsom outline for eight days; daily prayer, Bible readings and reflection; also included is an ecumenical order of service which may or may not be used at Epsom’s Unity Service which is to be held at Christchurch on Sunday 22nd January at 6:30pm to be led by Rev. Rosemary Donovan.

Our aim is to pray as Christ prayed “That they may be one.”

To pray for the unity of all Christian people as we share in Christ’s ministry.  The Week of Prayer offers opportunities to meet and pray with fellow Christians of different denominations in the locality and it may be possible for friends/neighbours, living in close proximity to pray the leaflets each day together. Often new local initiatives emerge out of such meetings and prayer.


The worship material is provided in 2012 by the churches in Poland.  The secular and ecclesiastical histories of Poland intertwine and the Polish writers remind us of “the many times that Poland was invaded, the partitions, oppression by foreign powers and hostile systems.” The secular history has prompted a particular perspective for the issue of church unity. 


“As we pray for and strive towards the full visible unity of the church we – and the traditions to which we belong – will be changed, transformed and conformed to the likeness of Christ”.

Centenary Service for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2008 -a report

A congregation of over 1100 gathered at Westminster Abbey on January 18 th, 2008 to mark the centenary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an interested member of Churches Together in Epsom attended with one of her prayer partners for the week.  It was a first visit for her and she thought it a wonderful occasion; she was delighted to be surrounded by so many like minded people.

The four Presidents of Churches Together in England took part and the new General Secretary, Revd Dr David Cornick, was presented and prayed for.

His Grace Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Great Britain delivered the Call to Worship. Bible readings were given in Korean by Revd Suk In Lee, in Yoruba by Evangelist Olugbenga Okutubo, and in Greek by Bishop Theodoratos of Nazianzos. The sermon was preached by Commissioner Elizabeth Matear of the Salvation Army, the Free Churches Moderator.

Candles were processed from the four points of the compass, symbolising that the Week of Prayer is marked all over the world.

The London Community Gospel Choir and the St Yeghiche Armenian Choir also took part, as well as the Abbey’s Special Service Choir.

The Archbishop of Westminster, His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, led an Act of Commitment and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, introduced the Dismissal and the Peace.


Introduction to the Theme of the Week of Prayer for 2008

The ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’ for 2008 celebrates the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of the ‘Church Unity Octave’. Behind this shift in terminology lies a history of developments in prayer for Christian unity, an overview of which is given in the opening section of this Introduction to the Theme. A second section introduces the biblical text and theme chosen for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2008. This is followed by a brief reflection on ‘spiritual ecumenism’ as a framework within which prayer for Christian unity can be helpfully understood. The introduction concludes with an outline of the structure for the eight days of the unity octave for this year.

One hundred years ago, Father Paul Wattson, Episcopal (Anglican) priest and co-founder of the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor (Garrison, New York), introduced a Prayer Octave for Christian Unity that was first celebrated from 18 to 25 January 1908. Exactly sixty years later, in 1968, churches and parishes around the world received for the first time material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which had been jointly prepared by Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (Catholic Church).

Today the cooperation between Anglican, Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic churches, parishes and communities in preparing for and celebrating the week of prayer has become a familiar practice. This simple fact is in itself a strong evidence for the effectiveness of prayer for unity. It gives us every right to speak about the history of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as one of success, and a reason for great joy and gratitude.

In the mid-1930’s, Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, France, gave a new orientation to the church unity octave. By this time, the observance of the octave had started to spread throughout the Catholic Church and in a small number of Anglican communities sympathetic to reunion with the bishop of Rome; but this approach was rejected on theological grounds by many Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church. Abbé Paul maintained the dates of 18–25 January, but changed the terminology; the ‘Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’ which he promoted was to pray for the unity of the church “as Christ wills it”.

We can also identify another stream of initiatives of prayer for Christian unity as part of the week of prayer’s origins. In 1915, A Manual of Prayer for Christian Unity was printed for ‘The Commission of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America on the World Conference on Faith and Order’. The short introduction emphasized the hope that different communions each prayed for unity, but not necessarily that they physically prayed together. Neither was there an expectation that “liturgical churches like the Roman Catholic and the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church” would make use of their material, but rather, that they would draw on their own rich heritage and resources of prayers for Christian unity.

From 1921 onwards the Continuation Committee for the World Conference on Faith and Order published material for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity and suggested that it be held during the eight days ending with Pentecost. In 1941 the Commission on Faith and Order moved these dates to January to coincide with the Catholic initiative so that both streams would invite Christians to pray at the same time. From 1958 onwards the material prepared by Faith and Order was in large part coordinated with the Roman Catholic material prepared in Lyons, and from 1960 the material was discussed together in detail, albeit in a discreet manner, since these ecumenical endeavours were not yet officially encouraged by the Catholic Church.

The biblical text and theme chosen for 2008

The biblical text for this centennial Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is taken from 1 Thessalonians. The text “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians5: 17) stresses the essential role of prayer within the life of the Christian community as its members grow in their relationship to Christ and to one another. This text is one in a series of ‘imperatives’, statements in which Paul encourages the community to live out its God-given unity in Christ, to be in practice what it is in principle: the one body of Christ, visibly one in that place.

The letter to the Thessalonians, dating from 50 or 51 AD and considered by most exegetes to be the earliest of Paul’s known letters, reflects Paul’s intense relationship with the Christian community in Thessalonica. Fresh from persecution in Philippi – where Paul and his companions Silvanus and Timothy had been attacked by a mob, beaten at the command of the town magistrates, and thrown into prison (Acts 17: 1-9) – Paul had established the church in Thessalonica in a few weeks of concentrated work before fresh attacks drove him on to Beroea and from there, to Athens (17: 10-15). Paul had high hopes for the church in Thessalonica; its growth in faith, hope and love, its reception of the word despite suffering, and its joy in the Holy Spirit all drew his admiration and praise (1 Thessalonians1: 2-10). Yet he was concerned. His hasty departure had not left him time to consolidate the work he had begun, and he had received disturbing reports. Some challenges were external, notably, persecution of the community and its members (1 Thessalonians2: 14). Others were internal: some were behaving in ways typical of the culture around them rather than of the new life in Christ (4: 1-8); some in the community had raised questions about those in positions of leadership and authority, including Paul himself (cf. 2: 3-7, 10); and some despaired at the fate of those who were dying before the return of Christ. Would they be denied a place in God’s kingdom? Was the promise of salvation, for them and perhaps for others, empty and void (cf. 4: 13)?

Fearing that his work had been in vain and “able to bear it no longer” (3:1) Paul, unable himself to return, had sent Timothy to Thessalonica. Timothy had returned with news of the community’s strong faith and love, and its continued loyalty to Paul himself. 1 Thessalonians was Paul’s response to this good news – but also to the challenges facing the growing church. He wrote first to thank the community for its strength in the face of persecution. Second, for all his relief and joy at Timothy’s report, he recognized in it the seeds of division within the church, and thus hastened to address the diverse questions raised within the community about personal behaviour (4: 9-12), leadership (5: 12-13a) and the hope of eternal life in Christ (4: 14-5: 11).

One of Paul’s central aims was to build up the community in its unity. Even death does not break the bonds which unite it as the one body of Christ; Christ has died and risen for all, so that at Christ’s coming both those who have already fallen asleep, and those still living “may live with him” (5: 10). This brought Paul to the imperatives in the text (1 Thessalonians 5: 13b-18), which have been chosen from a slightly longer list of exhortations to form the basis for this year’s week of prayer. The passage begins with Paul’s plea that the members of the community “be at peace among yourselves” (5: 13b) – a peace which is not simply the absence of conflict but a state of harmony in which the gifts of all within the community contribute to its thriving and growth.

Strikingly, Paul did not offer abstract theological teaching nor did he speak about emotions or feelings. Just as in the famous text on love from 1 Corinthians 13, he called rather for specific actions, actual ways of behaving, through which members of the community reveal their commitment and accountability to one another within the one body of Christ. Love is to be put into practice and made visible.

The imperatives themselves, the ‘things that make for peace’, he lists as follows: ensuring the contribution of all and encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak, being patient with all, not repaying evil for evil but doing good to one another and to all, rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances (5: 14-18a). The section chosen then concludes with the affirmation that, in doing these things, the community is living out “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (5: 18b).

The appeal to “pray without ceasing” (5: 17) is embedded within this list of imperatives. This emphasizes that life in Christian community is possible only through a life of prayer. Further, it shows that prayer is an integral part of the life of Christians precisely as they seek to manifest the unity which is given them in Christ – a unity which is not limited to doctrinal agreements and formal statements, but finds expression in the things that make for peace, in concrete actions which express and build up their unity in Christ and with one another.

In our baptism we commit ourselves to the following of Christ and the fulfilment of his will. This will for his followers was expressed in a prayer for unity so that others would come to believe in him as the one sent by God. Prayer that joins Jesus’ prayer for unity has come to be referred to by some churches as an expression of ‘spiritual ecumenism’. This prayer is most intense during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity but needs to flow out of this observance into our daily lives. We realize that Christian unity cannot be solely the fruit of human efforts, but is always the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot as humans make or organize it. We can only receive it as a gift of the Spirit when we ourselves are prepared to receive it.

Spiritual ecumenism calls forth an exchange of spiritual gifts so that what is lacking in each of our traditions finds its needed complement; this enables us to go beyond denominational labels to the Giver of all gifts. The surprising thing about prayer is that its first effect is in us. Our own minds and hearts are shaped by prayer as we seek opportunities to translate that prayer into practice, the true test of its authenticity. Spiritual ecumenism leads us to a healing of our memories. We face those difficult events of the past that give rise to competing interpretations of what happened and why. As a result, we can go beyond those things which have kept us divided. In other words, the goal of spiritual ecumenism is Christian unity that leads us into mission for the glory of God.

The initial draft of material was prepared by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, New York, New York, USA, Father James Loughran, SA, Director, in consultation with Dr Ann Riggs, Executive Director of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA; Dr Keelan Downton, Doctoral Fellow; the Reverend James Massa, Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Ms Susan Dennis, President and Executive Director of the Interchurch Center, New York, NY, USA.

All those involved have taken special note of the 100th anniversary of the Church Unity Octave first observed at Graymoor, in Garrison, New York from 18-25 January 1908. The preparation of the theme and texts celebrate the history of 100 years of prayer while calling for a reinvigoration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, hence the theme, ‘Pray without ceasing’.

The material was adapted to its present form at a meeting of the international preparatory group appointed by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The international group met at Graymoor, NY, in September 2006, and its members wish to extend their thanks to the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement for their gracious hospitality, and to all who were involved in preparing the initial draft.

The proposed worship service recalls the deep-rooted American religious belief in the power of prayer. It includes elements of Roman Catholic liturgy and features drawn from liturgies of other mainline Christian traditions, with particular contributions from Protestant pietism and American pentecostalism. Spirituals inspired by the gospel are recommended for the sung parts. The service comprises three distinct parts in relation with the themes of the eight days.

The 100 th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.................more


In Spring 2007, the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute (GEII), New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA), Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts (ECVA), and the Museum of Biblical Art invited artists to illustrate “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17), the scriptural theme of the 2008 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Jurors Thomas W. Lollar, director of visual arts at New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Dr. Ena Heller, founder and executive director of the Museum of Biblical Art selected the piece they thought best represented the theme.

Onward in Prayer by John Mittelstadt of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was named the winner of the competition and his image appears on posters, prayer cards and other resources developed by GEII for use during the 2008 observance of the Week of Prayer.

Mittelstadt is a member of CIVA. He has worked with Christian themes since the 1980s and has self-published a book of his art and poetry. He attended The Art Center College of Design in Pasdena, CA and has a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from Wayne State University



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