Home > Week of Prayer for Christian Unity > Milestones of the Week of Prayer

Milestones of the Week of Prayer Cross
ca. 1740
A Pentecostal movement arises in Scotland, with North American ties, whose revivalist message includes prayers for and with all churches.
1820
The Rev. James Haldane Stewart publishes "Hints for the General Union of Christians for the Outpouring of the Spirit".
1840
The Rev. Ignatius Spencer suggests a "Union of Prayer for Unity".
1867
The First Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops emphasizes prayer for unity in the Preamble to its Resolutions.
1894
Pope Leo XIII encourages the practice of a Prayer Octave for Unity around Pentecost.
1907
The Rev. Spencer Jones, a priest in the Church of England & noted catechetical author, suggests to Fr. Paul Wattson, advocate for Anglican and Roman Catholic reunion and co-founder of the Society of the Atonement, the idea of having a day of prayer for Christian unity on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29).
Jan. 18-25, 1908
The Society of the Atonement at Graymoor observes the first Church Unity Octave beginning on the Feast of the Chair of Peter and ending on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
1909
Society of the Atonement is received corporately into the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius X. The Church Unity Octave receives his sanction and blessing.
1916
Pope Benedict XV extends the Church Unity Octave observance throughout the Catholic Church.
1921
At their annual meeting in Washington D.C., the U.S. Catholic Bishops unanimously approve the resolution for observing the Church Unity Octave in all Catholic U.S. dioceses.
1926
The Faith and Order movement publishes"Suggestions for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity" which proposes more Christian churches pray for unity around Pentecost.
1928
The Rev. Spencer Jones sends a letter to Fr. Paul saying, "Of course, the Church Unity Octave is your child and its marvelous development and success is due entirely to yourself, under God." and that in 1900 - 02 they were pointed towards the direction of Rome independently of one another.
1931
Fr. Paul Wattson announces name change from Church Unity Octave to Chair of Unity Octave on the advice of the Archbishop of Westminster, England, Francis Alphonsus Cardinal Bourne, as a name that better reflected the Catholic understanding of Christian unity. Commenting in his publication, The Lamp, Fr. Paul wrote, "It is a more explicit description of the kind of Church we desire and pray for." The alternate name was proffered by Society co-founder, Mother Lurana White.
1935
Abbé Paul Couturier, a Catholic priest in France, advocates a Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the inclusive basis of prayer for "the unity Christ wills by the means he wills".
1941
Faith and Order Conference changes the time for observing prayer for Christian unity from the week before Pentecost (Whitsunday) to January 18th – 25th so that there are not two different groups observing two different times of prayer for unity.
1958
Unité Chretienne (Lyon, France) and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches begin co-operative preparation of materials for the observance.
Chair of Unity Octave celebrates its Golden Jubilee (50 years).
1964
The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism calls prayer the "soul of the ecumenical movement" and encourages Catholics to join in prayer during prescribed prayers for unity and at ecumenical gatherings.
1966
The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (now known as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) begin collaboration on a common text for worldwide usage.
The Chair of Unity Octave is joined with other ecumenical observances and is renamed Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
1968
The WCC Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity officially prepare materials in concert for use during the observance. The Friars of the Atonement begin adapting the international texts and publishing them in the United States.
1975
For the first time a local ecumenical group develops the draft material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. An Australian group is the first to volunteer for this task. (For a list of subsequent local groups, see Themes.)
1983
The National Council of Churches' Governing Board, at the growing request of local councils of churches, begins urging their member communions to name a common Sunday for ecumenical discussions. This observance becomes Ecumenical Sunday.
1988
Week of Prayer materials are used in the inaugural worship for The Christian Federation of Malaysia, linking the major Christian groupings in that country.
1991
Ecumenical Sunday becomes fully integrated with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as the second (or only) Sunday occuring between January 18th – 25th.
2005
The Pontifical Council and Faith and Order jointly prepare and publish the texts in a common format for the first time.
2008
Centenary celebration 1908 – 2008.