How to Support Christian Unity Throughout the Year

The initiatives called forth, strengthened and enhanced during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity can be sustained throughout the year.  After the Week of Prayer activities and evaluation, a core of persons may be invited to continue as a task force to consider other occasions in the year when interchurch collaboration or ecumenical celebrations might be desirable.  Here are some suggestions to help support the ecumenical impulse throughout 2005.

Throughout the Year

Working with the appropriate staff, create or expand the local public library’s religion section.  Compile and circulate a bibliography or religious references for local congregations as a means of promoting religious studies and ecumenical awareness.  These materials on the internet from the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute include a bibliography under Resources for Ecumenical and Interreligious Understanding. Encourage your public library to purchase these publications and subscribe to these periodicals.

Form a study group on the Church and World: The Unity of the Church and the Renewal of Human Community.  This text helps bring the classic search for Christian unity into creative dialogue with evangelization.  It conveys a broad, wholistic vision of the ecumenical movement.  A World Council of Churches Faith and Order document, Church and World may be ordered from:
WCC Distribution Center
International Specialized Book Services
920 NE 58th Ave  Suite 300.
Portland, OR 97213
Tel: 800-944-6190;  Fax: 503-280-8832
Email
orders@isbs.com.  Website www.isbscatalog.com
Other books listed on this website under Resources for Ecumenical and Interreligious Understanding could also be used for common reading and discussion.

 At another time of year you may want to consider extending your ecumenical endeavor into a wider area of interreligious understanding by exploring the world's great religious traditions, particularly with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and others in your area.  Among possible ways of pursuing this are: shared readings and experiences of one anotherís faith stories; inviting members of other religions to speak at your congregation; organizing times when the prayers of each religion can be expressed at the same time and place for peace and interreligious understanding.


Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday
(February 6)
On a day when many people are football-focused, neighborhood churches participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring by inviting an offering of $1.00 from every person, the collection to be given to a local agency serving the poor.  For information and materials contact:
Rev. Brad Smith
PO Box 23224
Columbia, SC  29224.
Tel 1-800-358-7687;  Tel 803-788-3746;   Fax  803-788-9264
Website  www.souperbowl.org.

Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week
(February 20-27)
This annual observance challenges our awareness of and involvement in the wider ecumenism of interfaith understanding.  For information contact:
National Conference for Community and Justice
475 Park Avenue South
New York, NY  10016.
Tel 212-545-1300;  Fax 212-545-8053
Website www.nccj.org.

Ash Wednesday
(February 9, Western Churches)
Neighborhood churches having a joint celebration of the word of God, including the blessing and imposition of ashes or another act of repentance, is a symbolic way to begin the season of Lent.

Lent
(February 09-March 26, Western Churches;
March 14-April 30, Eastern/Orthodox Churches)
A modern-day pilgrimage, invite Christians to experience worship in a different church in their neighborhood on consecutive Sundays, encourages interest in Christian unity.  Interest increases when visitors are publicly welcomed and given opportunity to talk informally with the host congregation.  As a lenten pilgrimage, such services express an ecumenical dimension to the season’s prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

World Day of Prayer
(March 04)
Prepared by WDP Christian women of  Panama, this year’s
theme for the WDP is “In Faith, Women Shape the Future”.  For information about its observance, contact:
Church Women United (the US committee for World Day of Prayer)
475 Riverside Drive, Room 729
New York, NY  10115.
Tel 212-870-3049;  Fax 212-864-8648
Email  wdpic@worlddayofprayer.net Website  www.wdpic@worlddayofprayer.net or
                    cwu@churchwomen.org Website  www.churchwomen.org

The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of Aids
(February 20-27)
The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of Aids is a national call to religious leaders and to the African American community at-large to involve and educate our churches by providing prevention facts about HIV/AIDS and by encouraging compassion for people infected and affected by the disease.  For information contact:
Balm In Gilead, Inc.
130 West 42 Street
New York, NY 10036
1-888-225-6243 Tel 212-730-7381;  Fax 212-730-2551
Email balmingilead@aol.com  Website www.balmingilead.org

Palm Sunday
(March 20,  Western Churches;
April 24, Eastern/Orthodox Churches)
An Ecumenical Palm Sunday celebration, now a custom in many communities, enables members of an area's churches to get together in parks, playgrounds, squares and shopping center parking lots to hear God's word, receive blessed palm branches and participate in a procession which can lead to continuing the liturgy of the day in their respective traditions.

Good Friday
(March 25, Western Churches;
April 29,  Eastern/Orthodox Churches)
The stations of the cross becomes a touching, contemporary experience when Christians of various denominations visit and pray together at fourteen sites in the community which stand in need of God's healing.  If distance, weather or other factors do not encourage an outdoor celebration, audio-visuals such as dance, drama, film, slides, videotapes, etc., make creative expressions of stational movement indoors.

Easter Sunday
(March 27, Western Churches;
May 01, Eastern/Orthodox Churches)
A sunrise service of the celebration of the word of God or the liturgy of the hours gives the Easter liturgy its ecumenical dimension when shared by neighborhood churches.  This can be followed by a simple fellowship of sharing traditional Easter foods which highlight the cultural aspects of interchurch activity.

May Friendship Day
(May 06)
Having focused on the 'light' theme "Living in the Light: True Friends are Salt and Light" in the WDP service, the Polish women have shown the results of being that 'light'. In this worship service, the attention shifts to the 'lights' that have shone in our lives. Who were the adult friends in our childhood and youth who influenced our own spiritual growth? and can we also share our faith and be 'light' through friendship with a younger generation? Writers, Jean Ivey and Pauline Robertson, have explored for us further the meanings of salt and light in other Scripture passages. How appropriate that it is at this celebration of May Friendship Day that we traditionally dedicate our Fellowship of the Least Coin offerings! Shanti Solomon was indeed a shining light in our own day. Prepare with Scriptures: 1 Jn.1,7-8; Lk. 14,34-35 (others in text).
For information about its observance, contact:
Church Women United
475 Riverside Drive, Room 1626
New York, NY  10115.
1-800-CWU(298)-5551  Tel 1-212-870-2347   Fax 1-212-870-2338
Email cwu@churchwomen.org  Website www.churchwomen.org.

Pentecost Sunday
(May 15, Western Churches;
May 01, Eastern/Orthodox Churches)
A festival of music, at which choirs, soloists and musicians from various churches “make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, is a timely way to celebrate this feast of the church ecumenically. 

Summer
Laying aside formal programs, summer events such as vacation Bible schools, picnics, food festivals, flea markets and fairs are ideal examples of seasonal interchurch activities.

Peace With Justice Week
(October 16-24)
Commonly celebrated in October, this annual celebration can be anytime.  The current theme “
Building a Culture of Peace with Justice” provides opportunity to support the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, adopt the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century, join the call of the WCC to participate in the Decade to Overcome Violence, (2001-2010) and explore Pillars of Peace, the NCC policy statement on the UN.  The Peace and Justice Week network has grown through the intentional strengthening of ties between national office and local groups and through linking local groups with each other.   For information and the PWJW organizer’s flyer full of action ideas and resources for congregations, ecumenical and community groups,  concerned individuals and families, contact:
Peace with Justice Week
475 Riverside Drive, Room 700
New York, NY  10015
Tel 1-212-870-2424;  Fax 1-212-870-2055 
Email pwjw@ncccusa.org.  Website www.ncccusa.org.

World Community Day
(November 04)
We were challenged to "Let our Light Shine" by the WDP Writing Committee of Poland in their beautiful World Day of Prayer service.  For May Friendship Day, "Living in the Light: True Friends are Salt and Light", we were called to recall who passed the light to us, and to pass it on to the new generation. Today we gather in community, realizing that as Church Women United, we are called to to be "A Light to the Nation".  Our focus is on media/technology and the importance of being truth-seekers in the world as well as in our local area. In this service and Bible Study, Marilyn Lariviere and Rev. Paula Payne, will help us look at our own perceptions of good and evil, and distinguish between outward appearances as opposed to inner realities. The mirror of which St. Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 13, is the mirror of our souls. It needs to be clear for us, to be able to reflect the light of Christ.  We all need to look within ourselves before we look out to the world.  We will want to consider these Scriptures in our preparations: Isaiah 42,1-9 and 1 Cor. 13, 11-13. This service can be a powerful climax to a three-pronged celebration of the theme initiated by the women of Poland in their World Day of Prayers service. For information about its observance contact:
Church Women United
475 Riverside Drive, Room 1626
New York, NY  10115.
1-800-CWU(298)-5551; Tel 1-212-870-2347   Fax 1-212-870-2338
Email cwu@churchwomen.org. Website www.churchwomen.org.

Thanksgiving
(November 24)
The day on which our nation gives thanks offers a natural opportunity for ecumenical worship in praise and gratitude to God for the many gifts given us.  Interchurch services on the eve of Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving morning may express our common faith and faithfulness when prayer and collecting offerings of food, clothing or money are done together.

Advent
(November 27-December 24)
For each week of Advent one passage of scripture can be the focus of a gathering of Christians from different traditions.  The Bible study can be hosted in a different congregation each week.  For information contact:
Liturgical Conference
P.O. Box 31
Evanston, IL  60204
Tel 1-800-354-1420 ext.216 
Email customerservice@taylorandfrancis.com.  Website www.liturgicalconference.org.

Watch Night
(December 31)
A number of Christian traditions have the practice of a New Year’
s Eve vigil of reflection, music and prayer as an alternative observance held as midnight approaches or earlier in the evening.  This could be a celebration planned and offered ecumenically.

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