The International Preparatory Group
Two thousand years ago,
the first Christians gathered in Jerusalem experienced the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and were joined
together in unity as the body of Christ. In that event, Christians
of every time and place see their origin as a community of
the faithful, called together to proclaim Jesus Christ as
Lord and Savior. Although that earliest Jerusalem Church experienced
difficulties, both externally and internally, its members
persevered in faithfulness and fellowship, in breaking bread
The churches in Jerusalem today offer us a
vision of what it means to be united, even amid great problems.
They show us that the call to unity can be more than mere
words, and indeed that it can point us toward a future where
we anticipate and help build the heavenly Jerusalem.
Realism is required to make reality of such
a vision. The responsibility for our divisions lies with us;
they are the results of our own actions. We need to change
our prayer, asking God to change us so that we may actively
work for unity. We are ready enough to pray for unity, but
that can become a substitute for action to bring it about.
Is it possible that we ourselves are blocking the Holy Spirit
because we are the obstacles to unity; that our own hubris
The call for unity this year comes to churches
all over the world from Jerusalem, the mother Church. Mindful
of its own divisions and its own need to do more for the unity
of the Body of Christ, the Church in Jerusalem calls all Christians
to rediscover the values that bound together the early Christian
community in Jerusalem, when they devoted themselves to the
Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread
and the prayers. This is the challenge before us. The Christians
of Jerusalem call upon their brothers and sisters to make
this week of prayer an occasion for a renewed commitment to
work for a genuine ecumenism, grounded in the experience of
the early Church.
The 2011 prayers for the Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity have been prepared by Palestinian Christians,
who chose as a theme Acts 2:42, 'They devoted themselves to
the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of
bread and the prayers.' This theme is a call back to the origins
of the first church in Jerusalem; it is a call for inspiration
and renewal, a return to the essentials of the faith; it is
a call to remember the time when the Church was still One.
Within this theme four elements are presented which were marks
of the early Christian community, and which are essential
to the life of the Christian Community wherever it exists.
Firstly, the Word was passed on by the apostles. Secondly,
fellowship (koinonia) was an important mark of the early believers
whenever they met together. A third mark of the early Church
was the celebration of the Eucharist (the 'breaking of the
bread'), remembering the New Covenant which Jesus has enacted
in his suffering, death and resurrection. The fourth aspect
is the offering of constant prayer. These four elements are
the pillars of the life of the Church, and of its unity.
The Christian Community in the Holy Land
wishes to give prominence to these basic essentials as it
raises its prayers to God for the unity and vitality of the
Church throughout the world. The Christians of Jerusalem invite
their sisters and brothers around the world to join them in
prayer as they struggle for justice, peace and prosperity
for all people of the land.