An Ecumenical Celebration of the Word
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2003
“We hold this treasure – this gift – in earthen vessels...
therefore we do not lose heart...” (2 Corinthians 4:5-18)

“L(s)” refers to leader(s) of worship. These are to be chosen from the churches present at the worship. “C” refers to the cantor, who leads the congregational singing. “A” refers to the assembly gathered for worship.

Prelude

Opening of the Worship: Procession, Hymn and Welcome
The lights of the worship space are dim. Leaders of the churches present for the service and other liturgical ministers form the processional body. A hymn accompanies the procession. The lector carries a Bible. The cantor carries a clay lamp. These are placed on the table/altar in the chancel/sanctuary. As leaders and ministers take their places, the lights of the worship space are brightened. Making reference to the scriptural text and theme of this year’s Week of Prayer, the host church’s leader welcomes those gathered in the name of the triune God. The host leader then invites the guest leaders to introduce themselves and the church in which they serve.

Introit

L: Our treasure is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
A: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
L: Give thank to God, who made us fit for the holy community of light and rescued us from darkness, bringing us into the realm of Christ Jesus who redeemed us, forgiving our sins.
A: Gracious God, you are the fount of life. You give us light and we see.
L: Our light must shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify God’s heavenly name.
A: O Lord, we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Opening Prayer

L: Source of all, you have given us the light of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord. We hold this treasure in our fragile earthen vessels. May your Spirit keep this light burning brightly within us that we become beacons of your life and share the treasure of your love with the whole world. This we pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you together with the Holy Spirit, one God forever.
A: Amen.

Confession of Sin
A leader of worship invites those gathered to join in the prayer of confession. The prayer is by Reverend Pat Vowles, in Wendy S. Robins, ed., Let All the World..., London: USPG, 1990, p. 27.

All: We confess that in our lives we do not always choose the way of peace. We spread gossip which fans the flames of hatred. We are ready to make any sacrifice when the world demands, but few when God invites. We worship the false God of security. We hold out one hand in friendship, but keep a weapon in the other behind our back. We have divided your body of people into those we trust and those we do not. Hugh problems challenge us in the world, but our greed, fear and selfishness prevent us from uniting to solve them. Lord, we need your help and forgiveness, your reconciling power. Amen.

Proclamation of the Word of God

Lector: One of the following Old Testament passages is chosen: Leviticus 25:35-43 or Ruth 1:1-18.

Psalm 43:3-5 (chanted or recited)
C: O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.
A: Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the harp God, my God.
C: Why are you cast down, my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?
A: Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Lector: 2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-18.
L: One of the following gospel passages is chosen: Matthew 28:16-20, Matthew 8:5-13, Matthew 4:3-15 or Mark 7:1-9.

Hymn

Sermon
The sermon is preached by a leader of one of the guest churches present.

Confession of Faith

L: O God, who through Jesus Christ the Lord of all the world and of the church calls us to be one single body and to express your love, in the confession of the same faith, we pray to you in all humility.
A: Grant us light and strength of faith to overcome the shadows of evil which harm our communion of faith.
L: Pour out your love in our hearts that we may know you and discern your creative and reconciling presence in the lives of those around us.
A: Renew in us the gift of your Holy Spirit so that by that same Spirit we may now proclaim together that Jesus Christ is Lord; and that each human heart be touched in such a way that the barriers which divide us fall down; that rumors fade away that hatred cease and the wounds of disunion be healed; so that we may live in justice and in peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Offering
The host leader of worship designates the recipient of the offering and invites all to participate in giving. Those taking up the collection then approach the host leader who places the offering baskets with the Bible and lamp on the table/altar. A hymn or musical presentation may be sung during the collection.

Anthem or Musical Presentation

Intercessions
Representative of the various churches present, those chosen to make the intercessions gather around the table/altar, where they remain until the Lord’s Prayer is recited. Remaining in place, a leader of worship introduces and concludes the intercessions. Throughout or after each prayer all chant a refrain to the Holy Spirit, i.e., Taizé’s “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”.

We offer you the treasure of our faith in the frailty of our personal witness, our communities and our ecumenical achievements. Lord, renew in us your gifts of light, strength and communion...

Confronted by so much suffering and evil, we are submerged by despair, and we are aware of our weakness, even to the point of doubting whether it is worth reacting in favor of justice. Lord, help us to hear the witness of people and communities who, under pressure from all sides, have continued to hope and to act in the midst of distress...

Faced with the demands of mission in the world and conscious of the importance of the gospel which is entrusted to us, we can feel quite powerless. Lord, give us confidence to confess our faith...

The ecumenical movement sometimes loses its way as its seeks unity in faith, life and witness. Through the coming together of our churches, Lord, inspire this search.

A period remains for ex tempore petitions, after which all sing or say the Lord’s Prayer.

L: The host leader gathers up these prayers in a spontaneous collect.

Closing of the Worship: Dismissal, Recession, Hymn
If there are announcements, they are made prior to the worship’s closing. After a brief silence, the lights of the worship space are dimmed, letting the light of the clay lamp shine in the darkness. With extended arms, the leaders of worship bless and dismiss the gathered assembly using a spontaneous prayer or the Numbers 6:24-26 benediction. The leaders of worship and other ministers depart from the place of worship in the same way as they entered. The assembly follows. All regather at the place of after-worship fellowship.

 

Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute
PO Box 300, Garrison, New York 10524-0300