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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

BACKGROUND: Introduction to the Theme

2014 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This year’s theme was chosen by the Churches of Canada. Canadians live in a country that is marked by diversity in language, culture, and even climate, and we also embody diversity in our expressions of Christian faith. Living with this diversity, but being faithful to Christ’s desire for the unity of his disciples, has led us to a reflection on Paul’s provocative question in I Corinthians: “Has Christ been Divided?” In faith we respond, “No!” yet our church communities continue to embody scandalous divisions. I Corinthians also points us to a way in which we can value and receive the gifts of others even now in the midst of our divisions, and that is an encouragement to us in our work for unity

Canada is known for its natural splendor: its mountains, forests, lakes and rivers, seas of wheat and three ocean shorelines. Our land stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the U.S. border to the north pole. This is a land rich in agriculture and natural resources. Canada is also a land of diverse peoples: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis,1 and many people who came to settle here from around the world. We have two official languages, French and English, yet many Canadians celebrate the cultural and linguistic heritage from their ancestral homelands. Canada’s social and political divisions frequently hinge upon linguistic, cultural, and regional distinctions, yet learning to understand how these national identities contribute to a healthy diversity assist us in answering the question. “Has Christ Been Divided.” Within this multicultural milieu, many Christians have brought their particular ways of worship and ministry. Paul’s letter addresses us within our diversity and invites us to recognize that as church in our particular places we are not to be isolated or to act over against each other, but rather to recognize our interconnectedness with all who call on the name of the Lord.

In the Scripture passage chosen for our reflection this year, Paul begins his letters to the Corinthians with a powerful opening. Like an overture to an opera or the opening movement to a symphony, this passage touches on themes that certainly prepare us for what is to come in these letters. There are three movements in this text. All three lay a solid but challenging foundation for our reflections as Christians living and working together in churches and society today.

When we consider the many blessings and gifts of God made manifest in our country and peoples, we begin to recognize that we must treat one another, and the very land from which we derive our living, with dignity and respect. This recognition has called us to confession and repentance, and to the seeking of new and sustainable ways of living on the earth. It has raised our consciousness about how God has blessed us all, and that no one group can decide how to use these resources without hearing and including the voices of our fellow Christians in seeking the ultimate goal of Christian Unity.

1 First Nations is a term used in Canada to acknowledge the presence of the indigenous peoples before the arrival of Europeans. The indigenous people in the Arctic call themselves Inuit. Métis is a term used to refer to people of both indigenous and French ancestry.